Off the tip of southern Malaysia lies the small city-state Singapore. This sovereign island exists as a successful global finance, commerce and trade hub despite its lack of natural resources. A tropical nation, Singapore boasts one of the highest life expectancies and a generally efficient health system. Nevertheless, there are several widespread diseases in Singapore that need to be further addressed. Here are some common diseases in Singapore.

Although Singapore is highly developed and technologically advanced, its citizens often face significant health issues because of the nation’s proximity to Malaysia and Indonesia, two countries that produce an immense amount of air pollution. Singapore is the third-most densely populated country in the world, so communicable diseases like the flu and the common cold often run rampant due to close quarters.

Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease (HFMD)
HFMD, which presents with blisters and rashes on hands, feet and face, spreads quickly through small communities, transmitted through bodily fluids. Because it spreads through touch, it is especially prevalent among children.

In the first three weeks of 2017, there were 1,700 reported cases of HFMD, a significant increase from the 1,500 reported in 2016. Singaporeans have focused efforts to improve hygiene in low-income areas in order to prevent spread. There has been an incredible flow of information from the Ministry of Health to citizens to equip them, especially those with children, with the necessary tools to break HFMD’s chain of transmission. For example, there are lists provided with schools that have over 10 cases of HMFD within a short period of time so that parents can know to take their children away from school. Singapore has been more diligent with closing schools when there are several cases in the area to prevent rapid transmission.

Cardiovascular Diseases
Singapore, unlike many of its Southeast Asian neighbors, generally suffers from the same health concerns as Europe and North America. Cardiovascular diseases are a leading cause of death globally. In Singapore, they place the highest burden on life by a large margin due to the high rate of mortality. Ischemic heart disease, which involves narrowing arteries, is particularly devastating as it prevents sufficient levels of oxygen and blood from reaching the heart. Cardiovascular diseases led to almost a third of all deaths in the country, accounting for about 15 deaths per day in 2014.

Many Singaporeans suffer from cardiovascular diseases as a result of an unbalanced lifestyle combined with poor diet. Singapore, as a highly advanced nation, is prone to Westernization, which often involves an increased amount of fast food. Much of the threat of these diseases are preventable through lifestyle changes. More exercise and better nutrition are key to avoiding these common diseases in Singapore.

Diabetes
Another noncommunicable disease that severely affects Singapore is diabetes. This illness prevents the body from properly reacting to or creating insulin, which balances blood sugar levels. According the World Health Organization , the number of adults who have diabetes has quadrupled over the last 35 years due to “‘the way people eat, move and live.’” Around the world, particularly in developed nations, people have been indulging in high-calorie foods while leading more sedentary lifestyles, leading to widespread Type 2 Diabetes and other illnesses associated with an unhealthy lifestyle.

According to the International Diabetes Federation, Singapore currently has the second-highest proportion of diabetics among developed nations, with 10.53 percent of Singaporeans between 20 and 79 having diabetes. The number of Singaporeans with diabetes has been increasing with time. Only 4.7 percent had diabetes in 1984. The number rose to nine percent by 2004.

While lifestyle does play a significant role in diabetes, genetics must be considered as well. The vice president of the Diabetic Society of Singapore said that “we actually have a much higher percentage of body fat as compared with our Western counterparts.” Obesity can lead to insulin-resistance and causes diabetes, and these increased levels of body fat can also increase the likelihood of cardiovascular diseases.

In April 2016, Singapore’s Minister of Health Gan Kim Yong vowed to battle diabetes. Furthermore, as a result of this increase of illnesses associated with unhealthy lifestyles, like diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, Singaporeans, especially younger generations, have begun to alter their lifestyles by increasing exercise and controlling their diets to prevent common diseases in Singapore.

Akhil Reddy
Photo: Flickr