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With the number of diabetics in Singapore steadily increasing, how much do you know about this chronic condition? This article explores diabetes, its statistics in Singapore, its symptoms, complications and how it can be treated.
Diabetes is a worldwide epidemic — the number of people with diabetes is huge and growing. About 440,000 Singapore residents who were 18 years and above had diabetes in 2014, and the number is estimated to grow to 1,000,000 in 2050.
Diabetes was the fourth and eighth most common condition of polyclinic attendances and hospitalisation respectively in 2014. Life years lost due to mortality and ill-health related to diabetes was the fourth largest among all diseases in 2010.
The cost burden from diabetes, including medical expenses and productivity loss, is expected to rise from beyond $940 million in 2014 to $1.8 billion in 2050.
The prevalence of diabetes among Singapore residents (Singapore citizens and permanent residents) has increased over the decade. This is largely attributed to our ageing population as the risk of diabetes increases with age.
One in nine Singapore residents aged 18 to 69 years were affected by diabetes in 2010. The prevalence of people with diabetes was similar between the genders.
Indians and Malays have consistently had higher prevalence of diabetes compared to the Chinese across the years (Table 1).
One in three diabetics were unaware that they had diabetes. Among the diabetics who were aware of their disease, one in three had poor control of their condition.
Table 1: Crude prevalence of diabetes (%) among Singapore residents aged 18 to 69 years
18 – 29
30 – 39
40 – 49
50 – 59
60 – 69
Table 2 shows that even after accounting for Singapore's ageing population, the prevalence of diabetes in Singapore (10.5 percent) is higher than the world's average (8.8 percent). Rising obesity is also a significant contributor to the rise in diabetes prevalence.
Table 2: International comparison on national prevalence of diabetes (%) among the residents aged 20 to 79 years
North America and Caribbean
South and Central America
Middle East and North Africa
South East Asia
Countries and Regions within Asia
The prevalence of impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) among Singapore residents remained between 12 and 15 percent over the decade (Table 3). The profile of those with IGT was similar to those with diabetes. One in three people with IGT is estimated to develop diabetes in eight years.
Table 3: Crude prevalence of IGT (%) among Singapore residents aged 18 to 69 years
Know your risk and screen for diabetes.
Eat in moderation, choose more whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and reduce intake of sugar and saturated fat.
Stay fit by engaging in at least 150 minutes of physical activity weekly.
Aim for a healthy weight and have regular check-ups with your family doctor.
Smoking worsens the narrowing of blood vessels, reducing blood flow to many organs which can lead to serious complications.
Alcohol interferes with the meal plan and blood glucose control.
At-risk individuals, such as those with a family history of diabetes or who are overweight (body mass index ≥ 23kg/m2), should go for screening before 40 years old. Regular screening should be carried out every three years for people whose screening results have been found to be normal. Regular health screening for diabetes is recommended once every three years for people who are 40 years or older.
The screening test is free for Pioneer Generation and Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS) cardholders. Diabetes screening under HPB's Screen for Life programme is available at GP clinics and polyclinics. You can refer to this clinic locator for the list of CHAS clinics near you.
Since people with IGT have a higher risk of developing diabetes compared to people with normal glucose tolerance, you should be alert once IGT is detected. Studies have shown the cost effectiveness and risk reduction effects of lifestyle modification among people with IGT. Through close monitoring and follow-up, the glucose level of those with IGT can be improved and returned to the normal level.
Early detection, regular monitoring and timely treatment of diabetes can prevent complications and reduce the impact of diabetes on individuals and their caregivers.
To learn more about diabetes in Singapore, check out the "10 Things You Need to Know about Diabetes".
If you are between the ages of 18 and 39, find out your risk by taking the Diabetes Risk Assessment. Take the first step towards beating diabetes.
Uncontrolled diabetes causes narrowing of the blood vessels (atherosclerosis) which in turn can lead to high blood pressure.
Having both high blood pressure and diabetes greatly increases your risk of having a heart attack, stroke, diabetic eye disease and kidney disease. So do your best to keep your blood pressure within the normal range to prevent these diseases.
Related: How Does High Blood Pressure Affect Men and Women Differently?
If you have diabetes, ask your doctor to check your blood pressure regularly to make sure it stays below 140 over 80mmHg. Make small changes to your lifestyle, such as eating healthily and staying active, to keep your blood pressure within the desirable range.
Related: High Blood Pressure: Healthy Eating Guide
Related: Ambulatory Blood Pressure Monitoring
While some people can control their type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure with lifestyle changes, most require medication.
People with diabetes and high blood pressure are often prescribed medications to lower their blood pressure. There are many types of anti-hypertensive medications. Some produce side effects, so keep track of how you feel and let your doctor know.
This article was last reviewed on
Tuesday, January 22, 2019
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