Chronic diseases are medical conditions that last 1 year or more. They will require ongoing medical attention or limit activities of daily living or both.
Conditions such as heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes are common chronic diseases in Singapore, and risk behaviours relating to lifestyle can contribute the development of these conditions:
As chronic diseases are progressive, they can affect the quality of life and be a financial burden on their loved ones.
Globally, chronic diseases are significant causes of disability and death. In Singapore, common chronic diseases that affect Singaporeans include hypertension, diabetes mellitus, high cholesterol and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Hypertension or high blood pressure refers to the condition in which blood is pumped around the body at an abnormally high pressure.
Blood pressure (BP) is described by two numbers and is represented in mmHg (millimetres of mercury), a measure of pressure. For instance, a BP of 120/80 means that the systolic BP is 120mmHg while the diastolic BP is 80mmHg.
You can be considered pre-hypertensive if your systolic BP is 130 – 139mmHg and your diastolic BP is 80-89mmHg. At this stage, you would generally be advised to modify your lifestyle to control the blood pressure.
You will be diagnosed with hypertension if your systolic BP is 140mmHg or more, your diastolic BP is 90mmHg or more, or both. In Singapore, almost 22% from 30 to 69 years old have hypertension.
In 95% of cases, the cause of hypertension is unknown. In the rest, hypertension may be caused by kidney disease, the narrowing of certain blood vessels or other systemic illnesses.
Risk factors that increase the chances of developing hypertension include obesity and diabetes.
Diabetes is a condition in which the blood glucose levels in the body remain persistently higher than normal. In Singapore, 9% of Singapore residents aged 18 to 69 years old are affected by diabetes1.
Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that allows your body cells to use blood glucose (sugar) for energy. Firstly, carbohydrates are converted into glucose before they are absorbed into our bloodstream. Examples of food rich in carbohydrates include rice, pasta, and bread. The pancreas then releases insulin to move the glucose from the bloodstream into the body cells for use or storage.
People with diabetes are unable to fully utilize the glucose in their bloodstream because they either lack insulin in the body or their body cells have developed resistance to insulin.
There are 3 major types of diabetes:
Type 1 diabetes is caused by a lack of insulin due to damaged pancreatic cells. It is typically diagnosed in children or young adults although it can occur at any age.
Hence, insulin is required for treatment.
Type 2 diabetes occurs when the insulin produced is not enough or not effective (if the body cells develop resistance to insulin). It occurs more frequently in people above 40 years old, particularly those who are overweight and physically inactive.
It can be controlled with proper diet and exercise. However, most diabetics also require oral medication.
Gestational diabetes occurs in about 2-5% of all pregnancies. It typically affects women who were not diagnosed to have diabetes previously.
While blood sugar usually returns to normal levels after delivery of the baby, 50% of the mothers develop Type 2 Diabetes after delivery. These mothers are advised to lower their risk by achieving a healthy body weight after delivery.
High cholesterol is a condition in which fatty deposits develop in your blood vessels. Eventually, these deposits grow, making it difficult for enough blood to flow through your arteries.
Occasionally, these deposits can break, forming a clot that can cause a heart attack or stroke.
Close to 34% of Singapore residents have raised cholesterol1. This has increased by 8% over 7 years.
Cholesterol is carried through your body, attached to protein. This combination of proteins and cholesterol is called a lipoprotein.
There are 2 types of lipoproteins:
High cholesterol can be inherited, but is often the result of unhealthy lifestyle choices which make it preventable and treatable.
Factors that can increase the risk of “bad” cholesterol include:
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a term used to refer to chronic respiratory diseases including chronic bronchitis and emphysema. In these conditions, there is an obstruction to airflow in the airway of the lungs, thus causing breathing difficulties.
In chronic bronchitis, there is persistent inflammation of the airways (bronchi) of the lungs. Meanwhile, in emphysema, there is damage to the smaller airways (bronchioles) and air sacs (alveoli) of the lungs. Most people with COPD have a mix of both these conditions.
Smoking is the main cause of COPD. It damages the air sacs, airways and the lining of your lungs. Injured lungs have trouble moving air in and out, making it hard to breathe.
Air pollution including polluted work conditions may also contribute or worsen COPD.
While many of these chronic diseases don’t show any symptoms, especially in their early stages, they can result in disabling and life-threatening complications. Hence, health screening is imperative as it can help you find out if you have a medical condition even if you don’t display any signs or symptoms.
For particular conditions, health screening can even help prevent them from happening in the first place. This is done through discovering and treating any abnormalities that could later develop into a disease.
Early detection and treatment can help you take control of your health and change the prognosis of the disease. Prioritize your health and book a health screening appointment with us today.
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Dr Wenus Ho is a family physician and a designated workplace doctor with more than a decade of clinical experience. She is also currently a postgraduate tutor for the Graduate Diploma of Family Medicine (GDFM) Training Program in the Yong Yoo Lin School of Medicine, Singapore....
After graduating from Guys’, King’s and St Thomas’ School of Medicine in the United Kingdom, Dr Juliana went on to complete her Graduate Diploma in Family medicine at the National University of Singapore. She is currently pursuing her diploma in Occupational Medicine. Dr Juliana applies her...
Dr Yong graduated from University College London, United Kingdom, with a Bachelor of Medicine & Bachelor of Surgery with distinction in medical sciences. She has more than 10 years of experience as a general practitioner, and was accredited as family physician by the Family Physician Accreditation...
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