Many of us in Singapore have stick-like physiques, but that doesn’t mean we’re healthy. It’s official—Singapore has the world’s second highest proportion of diabetics, second only to the United States. A whopping 10.53% of us aged between 20 and 79 have diabetes.
To make matters worse, diabetes is a very expensive problem to treat, and adds to the already tremendous burden of our high-and-rising cost of living.
A 2010 study showed that the average annual cost of treating diabetes in Singapore was $2,034.60 a year, while those with inpatient admissions to hospitals paid an average of $8,787.80 annually.
Prevention isn’t just the best cure, it’s also the cheapest option, given the high costs of treating these chronic disease. Here are some ways to keep it affordable.
Go for regular diabetes screenings
Type-2 diabetes isn’t a death sentence—and if you start changing your lifestyle drastically before it gets serious, it might actually be reversible. But to do that, you have to first detect the disease, and most people don’t do so until it’s too late.
Fortunately, unlike most other things in Singapore, diabetes screening doesn’t cost a comb. The blood glucose test you’ll have to go through can be administered at polyclinics at subsidised rates, and you’re advised to get tested once every three years when you’re past the age of 40.
Unfortunately, you’re not allowed to use Medisave to cover diabetes screening costs. Hopefully this will change in light of our astronomical diabetes rates. If you do find out you have diabetes, however, you can use Medisave to pay for your outpatient costs.
Stop eating so much hawker food
The two main culprits of the high rate of diabetes in Singapore are unhealthy diets and lack of exercise. And without a doubt, hawker food is partly to blame for this.
Many people eat all their meals at hawker centres, and the proportion of people who cook at home is at a record low due to being idiots in the kitchen and not having enough time.
Unfortunately, if you think that by ordering the fish soup at the hawker centre every day you’re actually eating heathy, you’re sadly deluded. Even the most innocuous looking dishes are laden with salt and calories.
If you head to the hawker centre every day at lunch and frequently after work when it’s too late to cook, you need to make a conscious effort to regard hawker meals as treats, and not mindlessly default to them just because your stomach must be filled.
But when you’ve got a 10-times-a-week hawker habit, it’s going to be awfully expensive, not to mention not necessarily healthier, to upgrade to restaurant meals.
While the healthiest alternative is obviously cooking at home, there are some ready-made alternatives available at supermarkets that are fairly healthy, such as pre-made salads (swap out the salad dressing for olive oil) and fruit, if you still remember what those are. If you grocery shop in advance and always make extra food for the next day whenever you do cook, you can reduce your reliance on hawker meals and hopefully lower your risk of diabetes before it’s too late.
Exercise regularly during lunchtime
No matter how much people complain about how expensive their gym memberships are, let’s face it—the real reason Singaporeans don’t exercise is that they’re working too damned hard.
That’s bad news for the 7 out of 10 Singaporeans who don’t get enough daily exercise, according to a 2012 survey. A sedentary lifestyle increases your risk of Type 2 Diabetes and is one of the reasons so many Singaporeans have been struck by the disease.
If you’re stuck in the office till late at night every day and are too sleep-deprived to wake up early in the morning to exercise, that leaves office hours. Unless your boss starves you or keeps you under lock and key, you should be able to at least sneak in a bit of physical activity during lunchtime.
I don’t mean you have to enrol in some gruelling lunchtime bootcamp session or join the yuppies at the gym, either. Just 30 minutes of brisk walking can lower your risk of diabetes, will stop you from falling asleep at your desk in the afternoon and is completely free.
Sure, you might not exactly have the time to travel to a public pool and swim 100 laps during your lunch break, but a just few minutes of exercise every day beats an annual marathon.
This story was originally published in MoneySmart.