In conjunction with World Health Day recently, consultants at Sunway Medical Centre Velocity (SMCV) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, touch on the issues surrounding the three highs – high cholesterol, high blood sugar level, and high blood pressure – which are risk factors for the main non-communicable diseases prevalent in Malaysia.
According to the 2019 National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS), it was reported that 8.1% of the adult population in Malaysia have all three risk factors for diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol, which are still increasing at an alarming rate. These highs should be paid attention to before it progresses to an untreatable and life-threatening stage where it affects both heart and brain functions.
The three highs are mainly the result of unhealthy diets and sedentary lifestyles, explained Dr. Lim Soo Jin, SMCV Consultant Internal Medicine Physician and Nephrologist. Those with strong family history of the diseases are more susceptible to it as well. “The three highs are usually experienced by patients above the age of 40, but poor lifestyle habits may cause them to present early. These three highs are the major risk factors for stroke, ischaemic heart disease, and chronic kidney disease, all of which can lead to other health problems if taken lightly.”
As symptoms of the three highs can be subtle, regular health screenings to check blood pressure, sugar, and cholesterol levels are key.
“Symptoms of very high blood pressure can include headaches, vision problems, chest pain and difficulty in breathing; while those with high blood cholesterol may have eye signs such as xanthelasma (yellowish-white lumps of fatty material accumulated under the skin) or arcus senilis (a white, light grey or blueish arc visible above and below the outer part of the cornea); patients with high blood sugar will have increased thirst, frequent urination, fatigue, nausea and vomiting, shortness of breath and stomach pains,” Dr. Lim said.
Meanwhile, fellow SMCV Consultant Internal Medicine Physician and Neurologist, Dr. Kok Chin Yong, recounted the benefits of good health diets, regular exercise, and smoking cessation to manage the three highs, and urged patients to be aware of any changes in the body, no matter how small.
“Never second guess your symptoms. Conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes are the main risk factors for stroke in Malaysia, and hypertension is a silent killer as well,” Dr. Kok said. “Healthcare facilities can play a role in providing regular education through social media and awareness campaigns. That way, people can easily get up-to-date information and be constantly reminded on the most important aspect of their life – their own health.”