It’s April 2022 and COVID-19 is still lingering in the air. The pandemic has brought about devastating loss of livelihood and lives. It has, however, made us more health conscious. Self-test kits have been flying off the shelves and more people are educating and equipping themselves with protective measures to keep themselves and their families safe while weathering out the ongoing storm.
But there is also another group of “killers” in our midst that is still raging strong and in fact affecting a larger number of the population each day. Data from the World Health Organization (WHO) states that they are the cause of up to 41 million deaths every year globally which amounts to a staggering 71% of all recorded deaths. And sadly, more younger adults are the ones getting affected. Like most organized crime organizations, they have a code name as well: NCDs.
NCDs or Non-Communicable Diseases are chronic diseases that slowly but progressively cause damage to our organs. The commonest and deadliest of the NCDs include diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, and cancers. They usually do not have symptoms during the initial stages which make us feel fine and once they manifest; usually severe damage has already been done. As our body systems are reliant on each other, when one system starts to shut down due to organ injury and damage, the other systems will soon follow.The recent findings of the Singapore National Population Health Survey 2019/20, a joint collaborative effort between the Ministry of Health Singapore and the Health Promotion Board (HPB), found a few concerning trends among the population. A lesser number of residents opted to undergo medical checks or health screening in Singapore to look for non-cancer chronic diseases. And this is while a larger number of those who did take up a health screening package in Singapore was found to have at least one NCD compared to the similar survey done in 2017.
Across the causeway, a similar alarming pattern was found. Data from the Malaysian National Health and Morbidity Survey 2019 showed that 8.1% or a worrying 1.7 million of Malaysians currently live with three major cardiovascular diseases. 1 in 5 Malaysians even admitted that they regarded their overall health status to be “not good” and yet the rising majority of Malaysians have not done any medical checkups, blood tests or screening tests to evaluate their health statuses. Getting diagnosed with an NCD probably ranks quite high on anyone’s list of “Things You Never Wanted to Know About Yourself”. But early detection and early intervention can definitely bring a dramatic change to the bleak outlook the diseases carry. Here’s a few ways how:
Control measures can be started early and instead of needing to fork out more for expensive treatment measures when disease complications set in, managing NCDs during the early stage lessens the economic burden on you and our healthcare system.
Diseases such as hypertension and diabetes are linked to more dangerous complications such as ischaemic heart diseases and strokes. Thus, timely management of the “known evils” can reduce your risk of facing a whole myriad of other diseases too.
In many NCDs, early disease management prioritizes lifestyle modifications and less invasive medications. Maintaining a healthy diet, regular exercise and taking your medication on time coupled with regular and timely health checks is a whole lot more palatable than long hospital stays and being poked and prodded daily.
For all the damage and destruction NCDs bring, the screening process for many of them require little to no effort at all. Getting a basic general health assessment is getting easier as many public and private practitioners have heeded the World Health Organization’s global call to make NCD screening more accessible. Government backed initiatives such as Screen for Life in Singapore have also helped raise awareness and aid the booking of a health screening package less daunting, even for a first timer. Your first health screening is the most important step as it sets the tone for your future assessments. Here’s a few things that your healthcare provider will do for you during the initial assessment:
Detailed history taking. Your doctor will probably ask you a few questions about your lifestyle, current symptoms if any and probably a bit about your parents and immediate relatives. This is all part of assessing your risk level for getting an NCD and to determine which tests would be most beneficial for you.
Thorough physical examination. The physical examination will complement the information gathered from the history taking session. For instance, a foot assessment for someone at risk for diabetes.
Targeted testing. A primary care provider that offers targeting testing, where only the most applicable investigations are performed based on a comprehensive risk assessment, can provide you with a better overall health assessment instead.
You are the only you there is. A healthy body is the first step towards a happier, more productive version of yourself.