Non-communicable diseases main cause of death in M’sia

KUALA LUMPUR: Lifestyle diseases, better known as non-communicable diseases (NCD), have been the main cause of death in Malaysia over the last five years, said Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad (pix).

As a matter of fact, such diseases now account for 75% of all deaths in Malaysia, he told reporters after the launching of the Snomed CT Expo here today.

“Malaysians are dying prematurely, mainly due to diabetes and the complications that come with it, as well as hypertension which leads to cardiovascular complications and cancer,” he said.

More recently, he said, it was announced that ischemic heart disease (IHD) has become the number one cause of death among Malaysians. IHD is a heart problem caused by narrowed arteries. It is also known as coronary artery disease or coronary heart disease.

Otherwise, the average lifespans for Malaysians has plateaued at 75 years.

But, Dzulkefly said, of greater concern is the fact that more of those in the lowest income group — the B40 — are succumbing to NCDs and the ministry is determined to nip it in the bud.

“If such lifestyle diseases are not treated early, people may end up with kidney failure or, worse than that, amputation, and requiring highly expensive curative care at public hospitals,” he said. “Therefore early screening and immediate treatment will help to reduce the burden on the government.”.

He said his ministry is dealing with NCDs at the primary care level by working with clinics and general practitioners who play the role of gatekeeper in tackling such cases.

For instance, Dzulkefly said, if a person suffers from diabetes and admitted to the hospital, it will cost an average of RM2,000 a year to treat him. “The cost can rise very high if there are complications,” he explained.

He also said that cardiovascular diseases cannot be solely blamed on smoking but smokers are two or three times more at risk than non-smokers.

He said comorbidity — the presence of one or more additional conditions in a patient who already has a lifestyle disease such as cancer or heart disease — can also lead to an early death.

Other factors include obesity, overweight, a sedentary lifestyle and lack of physical activity.

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