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“Three Highs” chronic conditions you should pay attention to

Mention the “3 highs” in Singapore, and likely most people will be able to identify them as the 3 chronic conditions of high cholesterol, high blood pressure and high blood sugar. The numbers are significant – about 1 in 3 adults in Singapore have high cholesterol, 1 in 4 have high blood pressure and 1 in 10 is diabetic. More worrying, the numbers have been on a rising trend over the years.

Why is it important to pay attention to these conditions? If unmanaged, these chronic conditions can lead to diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and stroke with staggering long-term cost implications and impact on quality of life.

Implications of the 3 highs

High cholesterol, high blood pressure and high blood sugar damages the blood circulatory system and the organs it supports.

High Cholesterol: When you have high cholesterol, your body may store the excess cholesterol in your arteries. As it build ups in your arteries as plaque, it can harden, narrow and even completely block an artery.

High Blood Pressure:When blood pushes with too much force on delicate arteries it causes damage to it and the organs that it supplies blood to.

High Blood Sugar: High levels of blood sugar can cause changes that lead to a hardening of the blood vessels and erodes the ability of your pancreas to make insulin.

These conditions often go undetected

Unfortunately, there are no obvious symptoms for high cholesterol and high blood pressure. These conditions often go undetected until the onset of debilitating diseases such as heart attacks, organ damage and loss of sight etc. Survivors find a diminished quality of life after these episodes due to disability, loss of autonomy and financial burden.

Unlike infectious diseases which may have a vaccine or cure, chronic conditions have to be managed with lifelong lifestyle changes and habits. We share 3 things that you can do to prevent chronic conditions from sneaking up on you.

1. Monitor

Weighing Scale

Taking your weight is fast and easy, and is essential to help in the calculation of the Body Mass Index (BMI). BMI is a good gauge of whether you are overweight and at risk of chronic conditions.

Calculating your BMI

BMI =  Your weight in kg / ( Your height in meters x Your height in meters)

Healthy range BMI: Within 18.5 to 23 kg/m2

*Assess your weight and BMI at least once every 3 months on your own

Blood pressure monitor

A basic blood pressure monitor can be purchased for around $70 and can save you a lot more in the long run due to early detection.

Your blood pressure readings consists of 2 numbers, the systolic blood pressure (the larger number) and diastolic blood pressure (the smaller number).

Healthy range

Systolic blood pressure < 130 mmHg

Diastolic blood pressure < 80 mmHg

*Measure your blood pressure at least once every 3 months on your own

Annual health screening

Make an appointment for an annual health screening for yourself every year, 2 weeks before your birth day. As we age, we become more susceptible to these chronic conditions so it is wise to have annual data to know how our health is trending.

Got a result that is not favourable? Then perhaps, this year’s celebration, drinking, and feasting should adjusted accordingly.

To find out which health screening is suitable for you based on your age group and lifestyle, get more information here, or speak to your doctor.

2. Stay Active

Exercise can lower cholesterol levels, risk of high blood pressure, insulin resistance and risk of diabetes. Exercise does not have to be an all-out, intensive session at the gym or running a marathon. It is more important to maintain consistent, doable effort every week such as,

  • Brisk walking 30 minutes 5 times a week
  • Achieving 10,000 steps every day
  • Attending a class three times a week that you enjoy (e.g. Zumba, kickboxing)

3. Watch what you eat

You know theoretically what needs to be done.

More of: Vegetables, fish, leaner meats, whole grains and whole fruits

Less of: Processed food, alcohol, sweetened beverages

But what are the habits that can help you make better choices? Here are three habits to be mindful of:

Shopping at the perimeter of a supermarket rather than along the aisle.

The perimeter often contain whole foods and fruits while the aisles are full of processed foods that are high in preservatives and sugar.  Do watch out and avoid the high fat meat along the perimeter though, that should only be consumed in moderation.

Hold your dessert order till the end of the meal.

If we order all our items including our dessert at the start, we tend to over order. And when the desserts arrived, we make an attempt to finish it even when we are full. Instead, we should only order at the end of our meal and if you are really going to get dessert, consider sharing instead of having one serving each.

Drinking water throughout the day

Drinking sufficient water not only helps you stay hydrated, but prevents you from feeling unnecessarily hungry and overeating.

Health and well-being is a lifelong journey

Seek balance in our lifestyle, and listen to our bodies’ signals of pain and pleasure to guide us on the path to long term good health. Always approach reliable sources for guidance when in doubt – speak to a doctor for professional advice on your health.

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