Malaysians are famous for our laid back “tidak apa” attitude. It’s an attitude that can be loosely translated as “never mind” or “don’t care” or “it’s not a big deal” and can be applied to most situations. Spike in urban crimes? Tak pe lah. Fuel hikes? Tak apa lah. Corruption? Tak pe lah. It’s a belief that the more a problem is ignored, the faster it will go out of mind.
However, this is really not a helpful attitude to employ towards one’s health.
Recently, Emeritus Professor Datuk Dr Mustaffa Embong, consultant endocrinologist and Executive Chairman of the National Diabetes Institute (NADI) said that despite an estimated 3.5 million Malaysians suffering from this chronic illness, there does not seem to be any urgency when it comes to dealing with the problem.
Half of the Malaysians suffering diabetes may not even know that they have the disease until it is too late.
Professor Mustaffa chalks this up to our “tidak apa” attitude.
“For many Malaysians, having diabetes is no big deal. Almost everyone knows someone – a relative, a friend, a neighbour, with the condition. And for those people with diabetes, except for a few, they do not appear to be affected by it, nor are they unduly worried about having the disease.
“There is also the prevailing belief that diabetes is not serious, as most times, there are no symptoms and there is no need to pay attention to it. If at all a serious complication occurs, it is just unfortunate for the other person. The attitude is, ‘it will not happen to me’,” shares Professor Mustaffa.
Unfortunately, this simply isn’t true.
The Professor elaborates that untreated or poorly-managed diabetes can be associated with serious, and sometimes, fatal complications.
“Long term, diabetes is the most common cause of adult blindness and non-traumatic amputations. In Malaysia, about half of heart attacks and end-stage kidney failure requiring dialysis can be attributed to diabetes. Other serious complications include frequent infections, leg claudication and stroke, and early deaths. During pregnancy, poorly-controlled diabetes increases risk of complications for both mother and baby,” he says.
And the saddest part is that diabetes can be managed with proper education and lifestyle changes.
The most common form of the disease is type 2 diabetes. It is caused by being overweight or obese, not being physically active or seldom exercise, unhealthy lifestyle with poor diet and poor sleep, and a touch of genetics. While there is nothing one can do about genetics, there are many things individuals can do to lower their risk of developing diabetes.
“Indeed, many studies, such as the Da Qing in China, Finnish Diabetes Prevention Study (DPS) and the American Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) have shown that just by adopting a healthy lifestyle through regular exercise and diet adjustments, the risk of diabetes could be reduced by as much as 42% to 58%,” adds Professor Mustaffa.
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