Tue01162018

LAST_UPDATETue, 16 Jan 2018 7pm

73% Of Deaths In M’sia Are Linked To Unhealthy Lifestyles, Time To Lose These Bad Habits

Last month, with 2018 looming around the corner, Malaysians received news that might change the cultural landscape of our country forever.

On the 22 December, Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi announced that 13 health policies were being discussed by the cabinet aimed at promoting a healthy living environment. Referred to in news reports as creating a Health-Promoting Environment, one of those policies included having restaurants close at 12 midnight.

Most Malaysians were particularly affected by the policy if it was to be implemented as closing restaurants and stalls at 12 midnight means that their ‘mamak sessions’ will be cut short, among other things.

As anyone who lives in Malaysia knows, the ‘mamak’ culture is quintessentially Malaysian. Watching football with friends, hanging out, getting a quick bite, studying and doing assignments, all these are what we’re going to miss ‘mamaks’ for. But that’s not what we are aiming to discuss today.

What we are going to focus on today, is the fact that the government feels it is time to encourage Malaysians to curb unhealthy habits with policy changes that will lead to positive lifestyle changes. The reason for the government’s urgency on this issue is due to the fact that the number of non-communicable diseases is on the rise in Malaysia.

While no study was presented to support this move, the high number of 24-hour restaurants is seen as directly contributing to the rising number of non-communicable diseases such as stroke, heart diseases, and diabetes. This means that Malaysians are generally living an unhealthy lifestyle, and the presence of 24-hour restaurants is helping them in continuing their bad habits.

Although the closure of mamaks and other 24-hour restaurants might catch some off guard, the news that Malaysians are living unhealthily are unsurprising, to say the least.

According to a statistic from the Ministry of Health earlier this year, a startling 73% of Malaysians died from non-communicable diseases. In fact, a staggering 73% of deaths are caused by diseases that might have been avoided if we practiced a healthier lifestyle.

Given this alarming statistic, it is understandable for the Ministry of Health to consider resorting to such drastic measures, because Malaysians are certainly not helping themselves.

So in light of the start of a brand new year, let’s take a look at unhealthy Malaysian habits that many of us might not be aware we are practicing and this article might help you make the resolution to ditch these habits behind in 2017

Anything Related To Cigarette Smoke

When we asked several Malaysians for their thoughts on unhealthy Malaysian habits, almost all of them responded with the one common thing; smoking. So maybe this should be the first unhealthy habit we leave in 2017.

Besides, there’s literally no benefit in smoking. It deteriorates your health, the health of the people you love, and it contributes to litter. Many Malaysians are beginning to feel very strongly about smoking, and smoking in public to be specific.

“The government should look into designating more smoking areas, and banning it everywhere else. There’s no reason why non-smokers should breathe in smoke as well,” said Aina, 26.

And she has a point there, as public smoking is still one of the unhealthiest habits Malaysians have. It’s bad enough for second-hand smokers, but did you know that it is also bad for people who were nowhere near the smoker while he was smoking?

Yes, doctors are now trying to raise more awareness on the ‘third-hand smoking’ effect.

According to doctors, third hand smoke is the residual nicotine and other harmful chemicals left on the clothes of a smoker, or on indoor surfaces. Although this might sound harmless enough, it is still very dangerous especially for childrens. Children who are exposed to third hand smoke are still very vulnerable to smoking-related diseases.

So, this 2018, let’s leave our smoking habit behind and create a smoke free environment!

Malaysians, We Are What We Eat

“The food you eat can be either the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison.” Ann Wigmore.

And true to the quote, we need to address Malaysians’ eating habits.

If you need to see how bad our eating habits can get, let us just tell you this one thing. Earlier in this article, we quoted the Ministry of Health’s statistics that 73% of deaths in Malaysia in 2016 were caused by non-communicable diseases.

Out of the 73%, almost half of them were heart diseases. And what causes heart diseases? Yes, unhealthy eating habits.

In fact, most non-communicable diseases are caused by the food we choose to put in our bellies.

Diabetes? Caused by a surplus of sugar. Stroke? Caused by a surplus of salt. Heart diseases? Caused by a surplus of fat or trans-fat.

But for Malaysians, this might be the hardest habit to break. After all, we all love our warm cup of teh tarik along with our sinfully delicious nasi lemak to start the day, don’t we?

But that might be the unhealthiest routine of our day.

“Malaysians need to learn how to employ calories counting in their daily meals. I’m not saying that you can’t take nasi lemak, but if you take chose to eat that for your breakfast, maybe you need to rethink what you have for lunch,” said Dr Khairul Hafidz.

In line with Dr Khairul said, we’re not asking you to starve yourself completely, but perhaps the next time you sit down for your next meal, an exercise in moderation might be in order.

Stigma Against Mental Health Issues

At the turn of December, one issue that got almost all of Malaysia talking was the seemingly weird antics of Iqram Dinzly, a Malaysian actor.

His actions and his words on his social media were the talk of the town, but unfortunately many Malaysians resorted to making fun of him, and calling his actions a publicity stunt.

But what if it’s not a publicity stunt? According to Dr Fauziah Mohd Saad, the Head of the Counselling unit at Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris, Iqram’s actions were indicative of a mental condition, and he needs help, instead of ridicule.

This incident speaks volumes about the attitude most Malaysians have regarding mental health issues and diseases.

As can be evidenced on social media postings and chatgroups daily, Malaysians are so quick to ridicule and make fun of people who might be afflicted with mental health issues, that it can make seeking help for these kind of issues troublesome.

According to Dr Tan Go Chua,, the most troublesome part of treating mental health issues is the stigma that comes along with it.

“Too many times, we have seen people with mental health issues not getting the treatment they deserve because the family, parents, or their partners are ashamed to admit that their loved ones might be mentally ill.

“We need to understand that mental health issues are a disease, and can be treated or managed. But Malaysian stigmas are preventing these,” said the doctor.

He also said that this is just dealing with people with visible mental health issues, but how about the people who conceal their condition? Sometimes keeping it under wraps leads to more serious health consequences.

So for the year ahead, let’s start taking mental health issues seriously, and stop ridiculing people who exhibit symptoms of this health issue.

Dental Care

Imagine a life without your teeth. Pretty tough right? Well that’s what most Malaysians might face in their future, if they don’t get their dental priorities right.

Most Malaysians regard dental care as a luxury, and not a necessity, and that’s contributing to the poor dental health of most Malaysians.

According to a dentist, Dr Natalia Amin, most Malaysians don’t even know the meaning of the word flossing, let alone practise it.

“That’s how bad dental care is viewed in Malaysia. For such an important organ, most Malaysians seem to have no problems in neglecting it.

“Most dentists recommend a visit to the dentist once every six months, but for some Malaysians, it’s more like once every six years,” said Dr Natalia.

And she has a valid point. As mentioned by her, if Malaysians don’t even know the meaning of the word flossing, what are the chances that they actually do it?

Dr Natalia called for raising more awareness when it comes to dental care.

“Dental checkups every six months, change your toothbrush every three months, floss regularly, brush your teeth twice a day, all these should be a habit for us. But instead, most Malaysians only come to the dentist when their tooth is starting to hurt. And in most cases, it’s something that can be avoided if they started caring for their teeth more,” said Dr Natalia.

So this 2018, let’s all take care of our teeth more!

Dependency On Dodgy Supplements And Pills

You know all those advertisements you see on TV about all those slimming pills, whitening creams, and health supplements and other beauty products?

Yes, that’s one of the unhealthy Malaysian habits that we should definitely leave in 2017.

According to Dr Faizal Salim, the intake of those pills can do more harm than good.

“Most health and beauty products in the market right now don’t really work actually. In fact, some products can be very detrimental to your health instead.

“For example, some supplements can be very harmful for your kidney. Some slimming pills, are also very detrimental to your intestine’s health. As for those whitening creams? They may contain mercury, which can cause mercury poisoning,” warned Dr Faizal.

Dr Faizal also said that instead of taking supplements and beauty products, why not consider natural alternatives.

“For supplements, we can start eating more fruits and vegetables to get our needed vitamins. If you want to slim down, focus on your eating habits instead of taking diet pills. If you want better skin, drink more water,” said Dr Faizal.

So let’s leave all those dietary supplements and beauty pills behind in 2017, and let’s focus on a more natural, healthier way to better ourselves in 2018!

Lack of Exercise

We Malaysians, are mostly literal couch potatoes. After a tough day at work, most of us love to do nothing more than just relaxing on our couches, and channel surf until we find something we want to watch.

Or now with the advent of Netflix, Youtube and other streaming websites, we just lie down in bed and search for whatever it is we’d like to watch.

And unsurprisingly, this is very unhealthy.

This growing inactivity among Malaysians is not new with a study by the British medical journal, The Lancet revealing that 49% of women and 44% of men in Malaysia were found to be obese, BBC reported back in 2014.

Similarly, the Economist Intelligence Unit’s “Tackling Obesity in Asean” report published this year also arrived at the same result that Malaysians are the most obese in the region.

It is actually recommended for everyone to at least get 30 minutes of exercise every day. And the reason for this is due to multiple factors.

“When you get enough exercise, the effect on your body is almost immediate. Your lung starts pumping out more oxygen through your blood making you more energetic, you will get better sleep, improve your mood, and make your mind sharper,” said Dr Faizal.

Dr Faizal also said that instead of more mall sessions and mamak hang outs, Malaysian youth should consider healthier alternatives for their weekend and night time activities.

While our list has been primarily based on the 13 policies the cabinet is currently studying to improve Malaysians health, perhaps our readers have their own suggestions to share based on their individual experiences.

There might be more habits our readers might like to shed light on, but for this writer, these are the ones we feel that is most important to highlight.

Whatever it is, let’s take 2018 as a starting point for our healthy lifestyles!

-mD