Digital lifestyle fuelling diabetes

A SIZABLE portion of Malaysians remain ignorant about diabetes and its risks. They are still lackadaisical about their diet and the need for regular physical activity.

KPJ Johor Specialist Hospital endocrinologist and internal medicine specialist Dr Kiran Nair, says urbanisation and modern lifestyles where everything has gone virtual, is fueling sedentary habits and obesity, which in turn lead to alarming rates of diabetes, emphasising the critical need for preventive measures.

The National Health and Morbidity Survey 2019 indicates that one in five adults is diabetic in Malaysia, or about 3.9 million people aged 18 and above.

Dr Kiran says the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic has also introduced a culture of convenience, further intensified by the digital age, propelling individuals towards less healthy eating habits and less movement.

"The convenience of having food delivered to the doorstep has resulted in most Malaysians eating too much and too often with lesser movement," she says.

Another critical factor contributing to type 2 diabetes is the deceptive nature of liquid calories.

Unlike solid calories, our brain cannot adequately assess the amount of liquid calories we consume, explains Dr Kiran.

For many Malaysians, the day commences with a substantial serving of these liquid calories.


Everyday beverages like teh tarik may be contributing significantly towards diabetes, especially when consumed on a regular basis.

A prevalent myth that exacerbates this issue is the misguided belief that diluting these drinks will reduce their sugar content.

Dr Kiran says most of us habitually ask for teh tarik that's "kurang manis" (less sweet), but are we genuinely aware of the volume of condensed milk and sugar used? Just a spoonful of condensed milk carries around 90 to 100 calories.

Even with water added to dilute its sweetness, our "teh tarik kurang manis" still carries the same amount of calories, she explains.

Having a family history of diabetes can also increase the risk of developing the condition. Type 2 diabetes, in particular, has a genetic component, and if your parents or siblings have diabetes, your risk is higher.

"However, it is important to note that having a family history of diabetes does not guarantee that you will develop the condition and not having a family history does not mean that you are immune," says Dr Kiran.

Taking precautions and getting regular screenings are important steps in managing diabetes especially when you have a family history.

The recommended frequency of diabetes screenings vary based on individual factors, including age, weight, activity level, and other health


The general advice is to get screened every six months for individuals with a higher risk.

It is crucial to consult a healthcare professional who can assess risk factors and provide personalised guidance on preventing or managing diabetes.

A comprehensive plan can be recommended by a healthcare professional, which will include lifestyle modifications, regular monitoring and appropriate screenings to manage risks effectively.

Early detection and management are key to preventing or effectively managing diabetes and its complications.

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