Waif-like Singaporeans often feel like they don’t have to worry about their health. After all, we’re nowhere near as fat as people in… certain other developed countries. But it turns out that Singapore has the world’s 2nd highest incidence of diabetes, with only the US ahead of us.
A whopping 11% of adults aged 18 to 69 have diabetes, with 12% to 15% being pre-diabetic. That’s very bad news, especially when you consider how much diabetes treatment costs. It’s a chronic condition too, so these costs will add up for the rest of your life.
Since the overwhelming majority of diabetics in Singapore have Type 2 diabetes, which is thought to be caused by an unhealthy lifestyle and diet, the government has been pleading with Singaporeans to reduce their sugar intake with its Let’s BEAT Diabetes campaign. Only time will tell if this falls on deaf ears.
For those of you who don’t exactly relish the prospect of a lifetime of insulin shots, here are three steps to lower your risk of Type 2 diabetes — and (of course) save money at the same time.
1. Eat by the right food for diabetes prevention by cooking at home
No matter how much you nag the hawker to use less oil, salt or sugar, there is no way you’ll be able to control what you’re putting into your body as well as if you are making your own meals at home.
A hawker or restauranteur’s objective is to sell as much food as possible. And if it means using as much salt as there is in the dead sea, enough oil to make a Gulf state rich and enough MSG to make you high, so be it. You can tell them to modify the dish for the sake of your health, but they’re going to do it sparingly as they wouldn’t want to risk your complaining about the taste.
When you cook at home, you get to decide exactly what to eat and how to make it. If you think you’re eating too much white rice and don’t want to switch to brown rice, you can still halve your portion of rice. You have complete control over portion sizes and the proportions of rice/noodles to vegetables and meat.
And if you feel the traditional recipes you grew up eating aren’t exactly the best for your health, nothing’s stopping you from learning new recipes or modifying them as much as you like.
Bonus: If you’re Muslim and want to eat Halal food at every meal, cooking at home also means you’re not stuck eating at the same Malay stall every day.
2. Do something active with friends rather than eating or drinking together
The most common response to “let’s meet up” tends to be an invitation to hang out at the latest restaurant, bar or hipster cafe.
You may not realise this, but socialising regularly at F&B outlets and could be taking a toll on your health. Those late night pratas, buffet lunches, cafe hopping sessions and steamboat sessions really add up.
Spending all your leisure time eating and drinking also makes you a lot less active, and we already know that sedentary lifestyles are one reason so many Singaporeans are diabetic.
Those who drink alcohol don’t need me to tell you that you’re not only paying horrendously high prices for your drinks thanks to the vice tax, but also ingesting tons of calories and, unless you’re the kind who orders whiskey neat, sugar.
The next time you’re meeting friends, suggest something that’s a little more active than stuffing your face. Take a walk at Gardens by the Bay, invite your friend to take a class at your gym, go night cycling, or have a pool party at someone’s condo.
Adding an active component to your outing will enable you to get your day’s quota of physical exercise, while still having a social life. Best of all, unless you’re renting yachts or something, it’s likely to cost a lot less than the usual dinner + drinks combo.
3. Find out which subsidised health screenings you can go for
The biggest tragedy about the diabetes rate in Singapore is that diabetes is preventable if detected early enough.
Go for regular screening without breaking the bank by knowing where you can get subsidised.
Beginning in September 1 this year, the Screen for Life programme enables eligible Singaporeans to enjoy bigger subsidies when they go for screening.
Health Assist (CHAS) cardholders aged 40 and above can enjoy screening for diabetes and other chronic diseases, as well as follow up visits, for a mere $2, while other eligible Singaporeans pay only $5. For Pioneer Generation cardholders, it’s free.
If you’re over 40, use the Screen for Life tool to find out which clinics near you offer subsidised screening.
You might also want to get a health insurance plan that offers free health screening if you’re particularly worried about not just diabetes but a bunch of other health conditions.
Are you taking active steps to prevent diabetes? Tell us what you’re doing in the comments!
Diabetes in Singapore – Guide to Cost of Screening, Treatment & Medication
Health Screening Packages in Singapore – Raffles Medical, Sata & More
CHAS Card – Is The Updated Green CHAS Card Worth Getting? (Jan 2022)