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Type II Diabetes in Malaysia

Type II diabetes mellitus is a condition whereby the body has difficulties regulating and using glucose as fuel. There are primarily two issues: the pancreas does not produce enough insulin, which regulates the movement of sugar into the cells; and cells respond poorly to insulin, taking in less sugar. In the long run, this leads to high blood sugar levels that potentially cause disorders in the circulatory, nervous and immune systems. This is the most prevalent form of diabetes, accounting for 90-95% of all diabetes cases in Malaysia.

Delving into the Statistics

About 18.3% or 3.9 million Malaysian adults have diabetes. To put things into perspective, this is one in five adults and about half are unaware of their condition according to the MOH's National Health & Morbidity Survey (2019). The prevalence of diabetes in the nation has risen by 7.1% from 2011 to 2019.


The WHO reports in 2022 that annual direct healthcare costs from diabetes in the nation total around RM4.4 billion - more than triple the costs for cancer (RM1.3 billion) and 11% higher than cardiovascular diseases (RM3.9 billion). Prudential reports that the estimated direct cost per patient is RM2,648 annually.


Recognising the Symptoms

​Most people do not realise they have diabetes until it progresses to a severe stage as patients seem perfectly healthy. Malaysians tend to shy away from medical checkups, viewing them as unnecessary costs and hence do not screen for diabetes. Therefore, it is important to take note of the following signs: 

  • Increased thirst

  • Frequent urination

  • Increased hunger

  • Unintended weight loss

  • Fatigue 

  • Blurred vision

  • Slow-healing sores

  • Frequent infections

  • Numbness/tingling in the hands or feet

  • Areas of darkened skin, usually in the skin or the neck

Risk Factors

  1. Weight - Being overweight or obese is the main risk.

  2. Fat distribution - Storing fat mainly in the abdomen rather than the hips or thighs is indicative of greater risk. 

  3. Blood lipid levels - Low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), "good" cholesterol, and high levels of triglycerides indicate greater risk.

  4. Physical inactivity - A more sedentary lifestyle means higher risk, Physical activity helps control weight gain, uses up glucose as energy and makes cells more insulin-sensitive.

  5. Prediabetes - Where blood sugar levels are higher than usual. If left untreated, it often progresses to type II diabetes.


Prevention Measures 

Diabetes is virtually uncurable and unfortunately, lasts a lifetime. Leading a healthy lifestyle could help prevent a multitude of health complications, including diabetes.


If you have been diagnosed, you may find the following lifestyle changes necessary to stop or slow the progression of diabetes: 

  • Eating healthy foods - Choose foods which are higher in fibre e.g. fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

  • Staying active - Get at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic activity.

  • Losing weight - If you are overweight or obese

  • Avoiding long stretches of inactivity - Try to get up every 30 minutes and move around for several minutes.

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