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How to reduce the risk of developing non-communicable diseases

19 August 2022 · 10 mins read


As we transition out of the pandemic, we should now prioritise the invisible epidemic, non-communicable diseases (NCDs), which are both a risk factor for COVID-19 and the leading cause of mortality and morbidity globally.

Types of non-communicable diseases (NCDs)

Non-communicable diseases or NCDs are a group of diseases that have long-term health implications. The four main types of NCDs are:

  • Cardiovascular diseases (conditions and diseases of the heart and blood vessels)
  • Cancers
  • Diabetes
  • Chronic respiratory diseases

These NCDs frequently necessitate long-term treatment and care.

NCDs account for seven of the top ten causes of mortality worldwide according to 2019 Global Health Estimates by World Health Organization (WHO). Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for the last 20 years.

In Malaysia, the 2019 National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS) reported that 50.1% of Malaysian adults are obese or overweight, 38.1% have hypercholesterolaemia (high cholesterol levels), 30% have hypertension (high blood pressure), and 18.3% have diabetes.

People who smoke, lead a sedentary lifestyle, consume an unhealthy diet and alcohol are at higher risk of developing NCDs.

The impact of NCDs

  1. Economic burden

    NCDs burden costs our country approximately RM8.91 billion, or 0.65% of the national gross domestic product (GDP), based on a report by the Ministry of Health Malaysia (MOH) and WHO. This causes economic burdens to the country and individuals as it affects their livelihoods and perpetuates poverty.

  2. Overwhelming the healthcare system

    The high prevalence of NCDs put tremendous pressure on our country’s healthcare systems to deliver care to patients with NCDs and complications.

  3. Lowering life quality

    Certain NCDs especially cardiovascular disease usually require long recovery and rehabilitation process. NCDs that are poorly controlled may lead to a lower life quality due to financial burden and emotional well-being of the patients and their family members.

How to reduce the risk of developing NCDs

During the pandemic, severe cases of infection and deaths due to COVID-19 are closely linked with underlying NCDs and its associated risk factors.

Therefore, it is important to address the risk factors associated with these diseases. Invest in making changes to your lifestyle as early as possible to reduce the risk of developing NCDs.

  1. Having a balanced and healthy diet
    • Include all major nutrients from plenty of fruits and vegetables, protein, and complex carbohydrates (whole grains and beans).
    • Reduce intake of salt to avoid elevated blood pressure.
    • Limit consumption of sugar, saturated fats, and ultra-processed food products.
    • Control alcohol consumption.
  2. Engaging in exercise or physical activity
    • Exercise daily for at least 25-30 minutes from a brisk walk to moderate intensity activities.
    • Regular exercise improves overall health, cardiovascular system, decreases cholesterol level, and maintains a healthy blood pressure level.
  3. Quit smoking
    • Smoking causes a wide range of health issues such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, and respiratory disease.
    • The risk of developing NCDs reduce when one quits smoking.
  4. Managing stress
    • Find ways to calm your mind and reduce stress such as relaxation techniques and meditation.
    • Do consult a professional if you require additional advice on stress management.
  5. Going for regular screenings
    • Most NCDs are not noticeable until later in life when it might be too late to treat them.
    • Therefore, regular screenings would help keep your health in check and you would be able to detect NCDs and their risk factors early, allowing them to be managed more easily.


  1. World Health Organization. Non-communicable diseases. 2021. [Accessed on 1 May 2022]. Available from:
  2. National Institutes of Health, Ministry of Health Malaysia. National Health and Morbidity Survey. Non-communicable Diseases: Risk Factors and other Health Problems. 2019.
  3. World Health Organization. The impact of non-communicable disease and their risk factors on Malaysia's gross domestic product. 2020.
  4. Oxford Medicine Online. Prevention and control of non-communicable diseases. 2015. [Accessed on 1 May 2022]. Available from:
  5. Murtagh J. Murtagh’s General Practice. 5th edition. Australia: Mc-Graw Hill. 2011

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