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Diabetes Rising in Singapore


The incidence of diabetes in Singapore is increasing and has, in fact, reached a twelve year high, according to national surveys on health and wellness. Currently, a total of 11 percent or more of adults greater than eighteen years of age are diabetic. This compares with only 8 percent in 2004 and 9 percent in 1998. The health survey is done every six years and indicates an increase in smokers, particularly the youth.

Of smokers, about 14 percent of those greater than age 18 smoked in 2010, an increase of two percent as identified in 2004. Among the younger people between the ages of 16 and 29, 16 percent smoked on a daily basis as compared to 12.6 percent in 2004. Fortunately, the rates of high cholesterol and high blood pressure have gone down over the years.

The relationship between diabetes and obesity might explain why there are so many more diabetics in Singapore. For example, the rate of obesity has increased by 4 percent (11 percent now as compared to 7 percent in 2004). Obesity is a risk factor for diabetes and controlling diabetes depends on controlling the rates of obesity.

Diabetes can be screened for in simple ways involving blood tests. Any reading greater than 200 mg/dL of glucose means you have diabetes, regardless of when you have the screening test. A fasting blood sugar should be lower than or equal to 100 mg/dL. Numbers between 100 and 125 mg/dL on a fasting basis are considered borderline diabetes and a number greater than 125 mg/dL indicates the presence of diabetes. Other screening tools include the three hour GTT test or glucose tolerance test. This involves drinking a glucose drink that challenges the blood sugar control of the body can be done to confirm the diagnosis of diabetes.

A simpler test involves the use of the glycosylated hemoglobin. This is a test that measures how “sugar coated” the red blood cells are in the body. It measures how high the glucose has been in the body over the life of the red blood cell, which is 120 days long. A number of 6.0 or more indicates the presence of diabetes in recent times. Numbers can be as high as in the low teens in severe diabetics.

Screening tests for diabetes are recommended for those who are 40 years of age or more and can be done yearly if the numbers are borderline. The tests can be done every two to three years on obese people and every five years on those who are of normal weight and without family history or risk factors for diabetes.

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