Ministry takes aim at public ignorance as Malaysians’ life expectancy plateaus

Health Minister Datuk Seri Dzulkefly Ahmad speaks during the press conference on the fight against high cholesterol and heart disease in Kuala Lumpur March 27, 2019. — Picture by Choo Choy May
Health Minister Datuk Seri Dzulkefly Ahmad speaks during the press conference on the fight against high cholesterol and heart disease in Kuala Lumpur March 27, 2019. — Picture by Choo Choy May

KUALA LUMPUR, March 27 — Ignorance over the effects of high blood cholesterol is driving escalating cases of heart diseases and other non-communicable diseases (NCDs), the Ministry of Health (MoH) said today.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Dzulkefly Ahmad explained that misconception over the “silent killer” of high blood cholesterol is driving Malaysians to falsely think that it is associated with gender, body weight and fitness level.

“While high blood cholesterol is a national public health concern, the bigger epidemic is ignorance.

“In Malaysia, ignorance is fuelling high blood cholesterol and it needs to stop now,” Dzulkefly said at a ministry event here.

High blood cholesterol is one of the leading causes of heart disease, and subsequently heart attack and stroke, and yet many Malaysians feel they are not affected by it, he said.

The prevalence of high blood cholesterol is roughly half, at 47.7 per cent of the population.

This comes as coronary heart disease remains the principal cause of death here, with as many as 37 Malaysians dying of it each day in 2017 — a 54 per cent increase from 10 years ago.

Dzulkelfy also cited the Malaysian Health Systems Research, a study involving renowned United States institution Harvard University, which indicated that Malaysians’ lifespans are now plateauing compared to the rest of the region.

The average life expectancy of Malaysians has reportedly remained at 75 years while other nations’ residents live longer, he said.

He also mentioned that the average age of Malaysians with heart diseases is merely 58 years old, compared to Thailand (68), Singapore (61), China (63), US (66) and Canada (68).

Dzulkefly also highlighted Putrajaya’s move to offer free healthcare scheme for the bottom 40 per cent households called Peka B40, which will address the prevalence of NCDs among the low-income households.

The move is part of the MoH’s effort to address factors that contribute to NCDs, such as hypertension, hyperlipid, hypercholesterol, hyperlipidemia, hypercholesterolaemia and diabetes, along with obesity and smoking.