KUALA LUMPUR: The rising number of deaths involving young adults is attributed to dietary factors and sedentary lifestyle.
Comparatively, young adults today are less active and don’t eat as healthily as the older generation. Fast food containing high levels of sodium, sugar and fat is becoming a staple, much to their detriment.
Nutritionist Dr Sareena Hanim Hamzah said processed food, such as sausages and burgers, especially those produced by fast-food restaurants, was extremely unhealthy.
“Processed food contains a high level of sugar, salt, oil and fat. Carbonated drinks, too, are very sweet. The same goes for bubble tea, which has become a trend among young people.
“They must realise that it can affect their health because it contains an excessive amount of sugar,” she told the New Straits Times.
Sareena, who is a Universiti Malaya senior lecturer, said opting for a balanced diet was key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, as well as prolonging one’s life expectancy.
However, she said, it did not mean that the usual “nasi campur” should be complemented with sweet beverages.
“I notice that a lot of people eat rice and take sugary drinks. The body does not need such a high amount of sugar.
“This unhealthy habit can lead to obesity, hypertension, diabetes, heart problems and many other complications. We should not eat more than what our body needs.”
Apart from ensuring a balanced diet, Sareena also stressed the importance of exercising, which she said was different from doing physical activities.
She said people should exercise at least 150 minutes a week, and this included “structured exercising programmes”.
“Walking is a physical activity, not a type of exercise. A structured exercise programme is performed with an underlying purpose and goal. Running, cycling, jogging and swimming are considered exercise.
“People nowadays are not very active. They spend most of their time in front of computers or playing with their gadgets when they should be exercising more and doing sufficient physical activities to maintain a good and healthy life.”
Policy-wise, the Health Ministry said the promotion of a healthy lifestyle has always been a key component in its services.
Among the ministry’s initiatives include the promotion of healthy eating habits through the “Suku Suku Separuh” (quarter, quarter, half) campaign to encourage people have a balanced diet.
“The campaign suggests people eat meals comprising a quarter portion of carbohydrates, such as rice or bread, and another quarter portion of proteins, such as fish, chicken or meat, with the other half being vegetables and fruits,” said Deputy Health Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye.
As for physical activities, Dr Lee said, the “10,000 Steps a Day” and “Jom Naik Tangga” campaigns were introduced to encourage Malaysians to get active by walking and using the stairs instead of the lift.
“We also introduced the ‘X-break’ campaign, where one takes a short break during working hours to do light exercise after sitting for long hours.
“Among the activities that one can do are brisk walking or walking up and down the stairs.”
As for those who spend most of their day at the office, Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) executive director Datuk Shamsuddin Bardan urged people to make full use of the workplace health programmes.
He said there was no reason for employees to say they did not have the time to take care of themselves since Malaysians were not considered “overworked”.
He said based on a MEF survey several years ago, Malaysians only worked 45 hours a week, compared with the international standard of 48 hours a week.
However, Shamsuddin said, there were certain professions where employees would have to work extra hours.
“Auditors, media practitioners and the police are required to work round the clock. Nevertheless, that should not be used as an excuse to not exercise.
“People should also get medical check-ups regularly.”