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Lifestyle management is the key to good health

When it comes to good health, moderation is key, especially since lifestyle practices can lead to the escalation of the three highs – high cholesterol, high blood sugar level and high blood pressure.

The National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS), shows that 8.1 per cent of the adult population in Malaysia have all three risk factors for diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol – all of which are non-communicable diseases resulting from the three highs.

Sunway Medical Centre Velocity (SMCV) consultant internal medicine physician and nephrologist, Dr Lim Soo Jin, says the three highs occur as a result of unhealthy diets and sedentary lifestyles.

Those with a strong family history of the diseases are also more susceptible to it as well.

“The three highs are usually experienced by patients above the age of 40, but poor lifestyle habits may cause them to present early. These three highs are the major risk factors for stroke, ischemic heart disease and chronic kidney disease, all of which can lead to other health problems if taken lightly.”

It is also important to note that symptoms of the three highs can be subtle, so regular health screenings to check blood pressure, sugar and cholesterol levels are key.

Symptoms of very high blood pressure can include headaches, vision problems, chest pain and difficulty in breathing, while those with high blood cholesterol may have eye signs such as xanthelasma (yellowish-white lumps of fatty material accumulated under the skin) or arcus senilis (a white, light grey or bluish arc visible above and below the outer part of the cornea).

Patients with high blood sugar will have increased thirst, frequent urination, fatigue, nausea and vomiting, shortness of breath and stomach pains.

If left untreated, these three highs can lead to other life-threatening conditions such as Acute Coronary Syndrome (ACS) which is a term used to describe a range of conditions associated with sudden, reduced blood flow to the heart. This will result in heart attack related conditions.

SMCV consultant cardiologist and internal medicine physician, Dr Tee Chee Hian, explains that if these three highs are not managed, they will cause blockage in the coronary artery and reduce blood flow to the heart muscle.

Severe cases will experience sudden loss of consciousness (as the heart stops pumping) and require immediate medical attention.

In terms of brain function, the three highs also have a strong impact, according to SMCV consultant neurologist and internal medicine physician, Dr Kok Chin Yong.

“Blood pressure elevation induces abnormal changes and remodelling of the blood vessel wall, weakening it and leading to impaired blood flow especially to the deep brain structures,” says Dr Kok.

Abnormally high sugar levels also cause direct damage to these structures and can result in confusion, abnormal movement disorder and seizures.

However, not all elevated blood pressure leads to hypertension, but it is a warning sign that cannot be ignored.

Early diagnosis is absolutely crucial. Treating the three highs early prevents stroke and dementia by preventing degeneration of both brain cells and blood vessels in the brain.

Dr Lim says Malaysia has good health facilities which patients should make use of to maintain their wellbeing.

Blood pressure monitoring and health screenings are easily available even on a district level so Malaysians can get their health checked with ease.

Dr Tee adds that a healthy, balanced diet and regular exercise will help to reduce the three highs. For example, a diet rich in vegetables and fruits, with less processed and fast food.

For an improved quality of life, Dr Kok urges patients to be aware of any changes in their bodies, no matter how small.

“Never second guess your symptoms. Conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes are the main risk factors for stroke in Malaysia and hypertension is a silent killer as well.”

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