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Common Chronic Conditions in Singapore

April 19, 2024

A chronic condition is a health condition or disease that is persistent or otherwise long-lasting in its effects or a disease that comes with time. The term chronic is often applied when the course of the disease lasts for more than three months. Chronic diseases tend to occur in older adults and can usually be controlled but not cured. The most common types of chronic disease are cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and arthritis.

What are the most common chronic diseases in Singapore?

Hypertension or High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, refers to a condition in which blood is pumped throughout the body at a higher pressure. It is one of the most common chronic diseases affecting many Singaporeans. The higher your blood pressure, the greater your risk of developing other health issues such as heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.

Causes of high blood pressure

  • Age
  • Unhealthy lifestyle choices such as smoking, lack of physical activity, poor diet
  • Family history
  • Existing health issues such as diabetes and high cholesterol
  • Obesity
  • Alcohol Consumption
  • Stress
  • Pregnancy (also known as Gestational Hypertension)

Diabetes mellitus

Diabetes, also known as Diabetes Mellitus, is a condition where one’s blood glucose levels are higher than normal.

Glucose is the type of sugar that exists in our blood and is the main source of energy for our body. It is derived from carbohydrates which are found in foods such as rice, noodles, bread, and sugar.

People with diabetes have high levels of glucose in their blood because their bodies are unable to process the glucose. This can be due to a lack of insulin being produced by the body (Type 1 diabetes) or their body cells having developed a resistance to insulin (Type 2 diabetes).

Symptoms of diabetes

  • Frequent urination
  • Excessive thirst
  • Weight loss despite eating well
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Sores that don’t heal
  • Blurry vision

High Cholesterol

Cholesterol travels through your blood, attached to proteins. The cholesterol and proteins combination are referred to as a lipoprotein. There are different types of cholesterol, based on what the lipoprotein carries. One type of cholesterol is the “bad” cholesterol, which is also known as Low-density lipoprotein (LDL). LDLs are responsible for causing plaque to build up in your arteries. Having too many of them can lead to heart problems over time.

Your body produces all the LDL (bad) cholesterol it requires. Unhealthy lifestyle or genetics can cause your body to produce more LDL cholesterol than it requires.

Lifestyle factors include:

  • Smoking
  • Being too stressed
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Poor diet

Symptoms of high cholesterol

High cholesterol does not usually cause symptoms. You can only find out if you have it from a blood test.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a common lung disease causing restricted airflow and breathing problems. It is sometimes called emphysema or chronic bronchitis.

In people with COPD, the lungs can get damaged or clogged with phlegm. Symptoms include cough, sometimes with phlegm, difficulty breathing, wheezing and tiredness.

Smoking and air pollution are the most common causes of COPD. People with COPD are at higher risk of other health problems.

COPD is not curable but symptoms can improve if one avoids smoking and exposure to air pollution and gets vaccines to prevent infections. It can also be treated with medicines, oxygen and pulmonary rehabilitation.

Symptoms of COPD

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chronic cough (sometimes with phlegm)
  • Fatigue
  • COPD symptoms can get worse quickly. These are called flare-ups. These usually last for a few days and often require additional medicine.

References: HealthwayMedical, WHO