A disease can strike at any time but some are particularly widespread. Here are some of the most common diseases that affect us as a nation.
We can’t escape the fact that diseases — both communicable (infectious) and non-communicable (non infectious) — can create a lot of problems in the society we live in. The World Health Organization (WHO) released a Country Cooperation Strategy in 2013 which also revealed the common diseases that affect Malaysians.
These diseases are pervasive, have taken countless lives and can affect anyone and this makes them particularly dangerous. This is also why you should to learn the right information about these diseases so you can protect yourself and your family. Here are some of Malaysia’s most dangerous diseases in no particular order.
Coronary Heart Disease
Heart disease is the number one killer in many countries including Malaysia. Also known as ischemic heart disease, coronary heart disease occurs when the blood supply to your heart is blocked or interrupted due to the buildup of fatty deposits.
In 2009, it was reported that one in four deaths in Malaysian government hospitals were attributed to heart disease which includes coronary heart disease. Lifestyle factors such as obesity, smoking, high cholesterol and diabetes increases your risk of developing this condition.
Coronary heart disease is not a condition which occurs overnight. The buildup of fatty deposits happens gradually and there may be no symptoms at the start. However, when there is an excessive buildup and blood flow to your heart is disrupted, there will be warning signs such as sharp chest pains and/or a heart attack.
WHO has predicted that an estimated 10 percent of Malaysians will suffer some form of mental illness by 2020. The term mental illness covers a wide range of mental conditions. These include schizophrenia (a severe mental disorder characterised by abnormal social behaviour), depression (a condition which negatively affects how you feel and think) and anxiety (the feeling of distress which affects a person’s everyday life).
Symptoms of a mental illness depend on the type of condition in question and the same goes for treatment. A psychiatrist or psychologist will recommend an appropriate treatment plan which usually includes medication as well as counseling. It is important to keep in mind that mental illness is not the fault of patient. Some believe that it is caused by evil spirits or is a punishment from The Almighty but these beliefs are not true at all. Seeking the help of a medical expert is essential when managing mental illness.
Also known as a brain attack, stroke occurs when the blood supply to your brain is interrupted. Stroke can affect anyone, at any age. The signs and symptoms of this condition include sudden paralysis, numbness of the face, trouble walking as well as speech difficulties. A good way to identify the symptoms of stroke is to remember the alphabets F,A,S and T . FAST stands for:
Face – Check if the person’s face is drooping by asking the person to smile
Arms – Check if the person is able to raise both arms
Speech – Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase and check if his speech is slurred
Time – If the person is experiencing these symptoms, seek medical assistance immediately or call 999 for help. Immediate medical attention is vital for recovery.
Treatment for stroke depends on the severity of the condition. Treatment options include medication to prevent blood clots and medical procedures to remove the blood clots, if necessary. Rehabilitation treatment such as speech therapy and physiotherapy may be required as well.
The National Stroke Association of Malaysia (NASAM) is an organisation that offers rehabilitation aid as well as education, on stroke. For more information, visit www.nasam.org.
In January this year, a number of celebrities from the world of entertainment, including David Bowie and Allan Rickman, succumbed to cancer. In Malaysia, a total of 21,700 deaths related to cancer were reported in 2012.
Also, known as the “Big C”, cancer is no longer a foreign term. The National Cancer Society Malaysia states that the top three cancers affecting Malaysians are breast cancer, colorectal cancer and lung cancer.
Although there are over a hundred different types of cancer, the root cause of cancer is the same for all. It all starts when abnormal cells in your body start multiplying excessively. Cancer is not an infectious disease but it can spread quickly, affecting cells in various parts of the body.
The signs and symptoms of cancer vary depending on the type of cancer involved. For example, a symptom of breast cancer would be lumps in the breast while one of the symptoms of skin cancer symptoms is growth on the skin that looks like a mole.
Avoiding detrimental lifestyle habits that can increase your risk of cancer, such as smoking or eating lots of processed food, is essential. Going for regular health screenings, especially after the age of 40, should also be a practice as this increases the chances for early detection.
The Ministry of Health Malaysia reported that 2,404 dengue cases occurred in the first week of 2016 alone. This infectious disease is mosquito-bourne and is transmitted specifically by a type of mosquito known as the Aedes mosquito.
Symptoms of dengue typically manifest between three to 14 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. The symptoms can range from mild to severe and include fever, headache, joint pain and rash. Patients with dengue could also experience a more severe form of this disease which is dengue hemorrhagic fever. Symptoms of it include abdominal pain, persistent vomiting, bleeding and difficulty breathing. Dengue hemorrhagic fever can be fatal.
There are several steps you can take to reduce the spread of this infectious disease. The first approach is to control the breeding of mosquitoes by ensuring that there is no stagnant water around. You should also dispose rubbish in designated areas and use insect repellents as well as clothing that covers your skin when you’re outdoors. The first dengue vaccine has recently been made available to the world but countries like Malaysia and Singapore are still studying the effectiveness of the vaccine. According to the company which produced the vaccine, a scientific study showed that it could only give protection to 47 percent of dengue patients.
Generally, as Malaysians there are a few simple steps you can take to keep diseases at bay. Firstly, taking responsibility of your health is vital. Be an example to your fellow Malaysians by leading a healthy and active lifestyle. You should also take preventive steps to avoid the spread of infectious diseases.
Besides that, you know your body. Consult a medical expert if you have any suspicions and uncertainties about your health. Your health is in your hands. As the nation develops, it is important to ensure that the health of you and your loved ones develop positively, as well.