Here is the good news: Singaporeans are living longer than ever before. In fact, Singapore is ranked third in the world for life expectancy with an average of 83.1 years. But the bad news is despite living longer, Singaporeans are experiencing an average of eight years of ill health during their old age.1
Living longer may be great, but it is also vital to ensure the living quality of those longer years we live. Whether you want to travel the world or spend your days playing with your grandchildren, health and peace of mind is something we all need for a long and happy life! Unfortunately, many of us deal with health conditions and problems and it is important that we learn how to manage them so that we can enjoy our life now, as well as our later years.
Here are five of the most common health conditions amongst Singaporeans as well as tips on how to not let them keep you from living the life you want!
Asthma is a chronic disease that causes the airways in one’s lungs to become temporarily narrower, thus making it harder to breathe. Common symptoms include coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath and chest tightness.
In Singapore, asthma is not uncommon, with about 5% of adults and 20% of children suffering from this respiratory problem.2 If well-controlled, asthma is not necessarily a life-threatening condition. Left untreated however, asthma may cause permanent damage to the lungs and can even be fatal.
One way to manage your (or your child’s) asthma is to find out what triggers it. Some common triggers and what you can do to prevent them include:
Animal fur/ dander: Avoid having a furry pet, or bathe your pets at least once weekly.
Dust mites: Keep your bed clean and wash your bed sheets and pillow cases in hot water weekly.
Tobacco smoke: If you are a smoker with asthma, quitting is an important step in managing your asthma. If you are a non-smoker with a family member who smokes, encourage them to quit or avoid them when they are smoking.
Food: Avoid foods that contain sulphites (example: preserved foods), which are known to trigger asthma episodes in some individuals.
The severe issue of diabetes was brought into the spotlight during Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s National Day Rally speech in 2017. It is an incurable chronic condition that occurs when the body does not produce enough (or any) insulin, leading to an excess of sugar in the blood. Some warning signs of diabetes include increased thirst and hunger, frequent urination, unexplained weight loss and increased headaches.
Diabetes is so common in Singapore that 1 in 9 Singaporeans have diabetes1. If not managed properly, diabetes can even lead to more serious conditions such as kidney failure, coma, blindness and even amputations. In fact, an average of 1,200 diabetics undergo amputation every year in Singapore and sadly, many of these could have been prevented with proper lifestyle management.
Here are some ways to manage your condition if you are diabetic and help avoid the health complications that come with it:
Add a bit of exercise to your daily routine! It can be as simple as getting off the bus a few stops early and walking a little more. You can even simply climb a few flights of stairs home! Every little bit helps.
To help keep your blood sugar under control, make it a point to check your blood glucose level regularly. The small act of checking from time to time helps you be more mindful of your condition and alerts you to any problems in time. This way, you can also make conscious choices on your food intake so that your blood glucose level is kept stable.
Instead of making significant changes to your diet - which may not be easy to sustain and stick to - make small but effective food swaps, such as switching out white rice for brown rice or asking for less oil in your food when eating out. These lifestyle changes are easy to maintain and will go a long way in helping you manage your diabetes!
High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is defined as high tension in the arteries due to the force of blood pushing against the walls of one’s blood vessels. High blood pressure is the most worrying, because it is a silent killer often with no symptoms. Many sufferers only realize they have high blood pressure when serious complications occur, such as stroke.
How common is high blood pressure? Almost twenty-four percent of Singaporeans have it 3. Out of that number, 1 in 4 are not even aware they have hypertension. It is important to make lifestyle changes so that your high blood pressure does not lead to more severe complications, such as heart attack and aneurysms.
These are what doctors recommend to help reduce your blood pressure:
Cut down on alcohol and set limits on how much you should consume. While having more than three drinks during a single drinking session temporarily increases your blood pressure, regular binge drinking can lead to more permanent effects on your blood pressure.4 Alcohol also contains calories and may contribute to weight gain, another factor for high blood pressure!
Quit smoking. There is no nice way to say this, but smoking can affect your blood pressure more than you think. Nicotine in cigarettes actually raises your heart rate and blood pressure. It also makes your arteries narrower and hardens their walls, both of which are factors that contribute to hypertension. Furthermore, nicotine is known to make your blood more likely to clot and makes your heart work harder, which can lead to heart attack and stroke.5
Practise work-life balance. Sometimes, it really is about just taking things a bit easier. Try to take a more balanced and more moderate approach to work and keep yourself calm. Getting stressed at work? Take a deep breath or go for a short breather. Remember that at the end of the day, work is just work! It is not worth risking your health over.
There are many different types of heart problems, but they all affect either one’s heart structures or functions. Common heart problems include coronary artery disease, abnormal heart rhythms and heart muscle disease. Every day, 16 people die from heart problems in Singapore. In 2016 alone, it is the cause of 29.5% of deaths here.6
If you have been diagnosed with a heart problem, it should be your key priority to be conscious of your lifestyle choices to minimise the risk of a heart attack. These are some of the things you should note if you have a heart problem:
Read up on the symptoms. This may seem obvious, but it is important to know the signs so that you can take action at the first hint of trouble. Warning signs may be subtle and include shortness of breath, an increased heart rate as well as increased weight gain (escalating heart failure can lead to noticeable and fast weight gain).
Watch the salt! High sodium intake is directly linked to an increase in blood pressure which increases the risk for heart attack.
Monitor your cholesterol. High cholesterol is a major contributor to heart attacks. Which brings us to our next point!
Cholesterol is found in the fats in your blood and is actually necessary for your body to keep building healthy cells. However, too much of a good thing can still be bad! High levels of cholesterol causes fatty deposits to develop in your blood vessels, which increases your risk of heart disease.
Perhaps it is due to all the yummy food we have locally, as 1 in 6 Singaporeans are found to have high cholesterol.7 High cholesterol should not be taken lightly though; it could lead to severe complications such as artery diseases, heart attacks and even stroke.
Lowering one’s blood cholesterol level usually involves making changes to one’s diet. These include:
Avoiding deep fried food when eating out. Businesses commonly reuse oil for deep-frying, which produce harmful compounds that contribute to higher cholesterol.
Consuming more soluble dietary fibre. Add more oatmeal, legumes, fruit, vegetables, nuts and beans to your diet. These help lower your cholesterol levels by reducing the amount of LDL cholesterols (the bad kind) absorbed in the intestines.
Take less full-fat dairy and red meats. These contain saturated fats, which raise your total cholesterol levels.
When indulging in your favorite chicken (and duck!) rice, remove the visible fat and skin before eating. Choosing leaner cuts of poultry meat (such as breast meat) and cutting the poultry fat you consume helps lower blood cholesterol.
Common worries with common health conditions
Being diagnosed with a medical condition is not the end of the world. In fact, it may be more common than you think! With proper management and some simple lifestyle changes, it is easy to improve your health for a better life.
At MSIG, we understand that these health problems come with many worries. And we want to assure you that these worries are common too! That is why we have insurance policies catered for your every need, giving you peace of mind wherever you go.
One of the most common worries we hear from our customers is with travelling. Many fear unexpected health complications while they are overseas, which hold them back from exploring the world.
With an insurance plan like TravelEasy Pre-Ex, you can rest assured that you will be covered, even when you are on holiday. TravelEasy Pre-Ex will cover your overseas hospitalization fees and emergency medical evacuation and/or repatriation in the event of an acute onset of pre-existing medical conditions.
TravelEasy Pre-Ex is tailored for travellers with stable and controlled pre-existing medical conditions. It covers most types of pre-existing medical conditions from asthma to cancer or heart conditions as long as your illness is stable and under control. Best of all, there is no upper age limit to get a travel insurance cover with TravelEasy Pre-Ex!
Not sure if you qualify? Speak to us and answer a few simple questions to find out. Don’t let your common medical condition stop you from taking that well-deserved trip overseas!
Find out more about TravelEasy Pre-Ex here.