Malaysians And Non-Communicable Diseases

Written by Jiveswara Vijiakumar
Posted on July 10, 2020

Asian Doctor

World Population Day is around the corner and it is time to cherish the achievements of mankind as well as highlight the rising global issues this year. The dawn of COVID-19 brought upon an unforeseen event of economic depression as well as urged us to reevaluate multiple aspects of our lifestyle. The current age of technological integration into society proved that various aspects of our lives from work culture to home living can be assessed and improved with minor easy modifications.

Yet, one aspect of our lives which is often disregarded is our general health. To be more specific, parts of our lifestyle which contributes to disease progression. We often overestimate our health status since it does not directly affect our day to day functions at the time. It is only when we reach the critical point is when we realize it is often too late. One specific saying has been proven time after time in the healthcare industry.

Prevention is Better Than Cure

Let’s have a look inward to highlight our national non-communicable disease status. Non-communicable diseases are basically diseases not transmitted from person to person but are developed from multiple factors such as lifestyle, environment, and genetics. Most of these NCDs are highly preventable and manageable such as diabetes, obesity, hypertension, and hypercholesterolemia.


Diabetes among Malaysians


According to the National Health and Morbidity Survey of 2019, 18.3 % of Malaysians of 18 years and above are diabetics. What’s more pressing is these numbers exclude the rising number of adolescent diabetic sufferers! Sadly, we have the highest national diabetes rate in southeast Asia and rank 15th globally.

Diabetes is a very serious affliction, yet it is often overlooked in our nation of abundantly scrumptious cuisines. Fret not, like most non-communicable diseases, diabetes can easily be kept at bay, or even reversed in many cases of prediabetes stages.


  • Substitute brown and white sugar with stevia
  • Reduce high-glycemic carbohydrates such as white bread and white rice
  • Avoid a sedentary lifestyle with short exercise breaks throughout the day.
  • Substitute soft-drinks with fresh juices or tea


Obesity Among Malaysians


50.1% of Malaysian adults are categorized as overweight and obese! Obesity rates in Malaysia are on the rise where more people are progressing to obesity instead of just overweight. What’s more alarming is 30% of Malaysian children are overweight or obese. These data show we are lagging far behind in national weight-management in southeast Asia.

This is unfortunate as obesity can drastically affect children’s development physically, psychologically, as well as socially. Such a lifestyle often translates to further deterioration in the quality of life as they progress towards adulthood. Furthermore, the progression and onset of various other health complications are accelerated.

What you can do;

  • Prepare homecooked meals instead of eating out
  • Reduce your meal portions
  • Snack with nuts and fruits
  • Cut down on processed foods and sugars
  • Implement daily sports or exercise
  • Improve sleep quality and quantity


Hypertension Among Malaysians


30% of Malaysian adults suffer from hypertension. Major factors contributing to hypertension include a poor diet, sleep quality and quantity, a sedentary lifestyle, and stress. We have the highest hypertension rate in the southeast Asia.

We tend to think hypertension is just a state of high blood pressure with no adverse side effects because we only know about it once we check our blood pressure. What we fail to realize is hypertension is a major contributor to the progression of cardiovascular diseases such as heart disease, as well as kidney stones, stroke, and more.

Help yourself by;

  • reducing salt and sugar intake
  • drinking at least 3 liters of water throughout the day
  • sleeping at least 7 to 9 hours a day
  • implementing medium intensity cardio every day
  • practicing relaxation techniques such as meditation and yoga


Hypercholesterolemia Among Malaysians


38.1% of Malaysian adults suffer from hypercholesterolemia. This is no surprise since our famous national cuisines tend to be heavily fat and oil-dependent. Our love for fried foods and oily curries and sambals have contributed to the high cholesterol levels in our blood. Again, we lead in the hypercholesterolemia rates in southeast Asia.

On the bright side, we netizens have taken note of these worrying trends and have put in the effort to help ourselves. That effort speaks for itself, as we see a big 11.6% decrease in hypercholesterolemia since 2015.


High cholesterol levels in our blood can lead to clogged arteries and hardening. Untreated, this alone can lead to strokes and heart complications. The causes of hypercholesterolemia include diet, lifestyle quality, and genetics.


  • reduce consumption of fried and oily food
  • reduce sugar intake
  • avoid trans fats such as margarine, fast food, and pastry
  • implement weight training, especially for men

So, how do we fare?

Sadly, we are leading with the highest rates for diabetes, obesity, hypertension, and hypercholesterolemia in southeast Asia with rather large margins. It is often easy to overlook such progressions in our developing country, yet it is still a pressing issue that requires as much attention we pay to other global issues such as climate change and human rights.

We Malaysians are proud, strong people who have shown perseverance in various fields, garnering the attention of the rest of the world. It is once again time to not only put in the effort to better ourselves but to make our country proud as well. Schedule frequent check-ups with your medical professional to stay one step ahead.

Genetics play a major role in the progression of discussed diseases, showing a trend of sufferers of each disease in a family. Wish to learn more about your genetics? Click here and learn more to improve your health.


1. National Health and Morbidity Survey Report 2019.

2. Global Obesity Levels 2016. ProCon. org.

3. Global Diabetes Prevalence 2019. The World Bank.

4. Man, R.E.K., Gan, A.H.W., Fenwick, E.K. et al. Prevalence, determinants and association of unawareness of diabetes, hypertension and hypercholesterolemia with poor disease control in a multi-ethnic Asian population without cardiovascular disease. Popul Health Metrics17, 17 (2019).

5. Disease Burden, MOH Singapore.

6. Prevalence of Hypertension, Diabetes, High Total Cholesterol, Obesity and Daily Smoking.

7. Hypertension in China, WHO.

8. Gupta R, Rao RS, Misra A, Sharma SK. Recent trends in epidemiology of dyslipidemias in India. Indian Heart J. 2017;69(3):382-392. doi:10.1016/j.ihj.2017.02.020

9. Ariyanti, R., & Besral, B. (2019). Dyslipidemia Associated with Hypertension Increases the Risks for Coronary Heart Disease: A Case-Control Study in Harapan Kita Hospital, National Cardiovascular Center, Jakarta. Journal of Lipids, 2019, 1–6. doi:10.1155/2019/2517013 

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