Allaying misconception of Malaysians about cholesterol

BASED on the recent State of Health of the Nation perception survey, Malaysians believe they are generally knowledgeable when it comes to cholesterol with a majority (85%) claiming that their level of understanding is average and good.

Conducted by The Green Zebras on behalf of the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) and leading pharmaceutical company, Novartis Malaysia, the survey also illustrates some of the misconceptions about cholesterol such as:

  • 92% of Malaysians think cholesterol can be managed through lifestyle changes.
  • Only 40% believe that cholesterol can only be controlled with medicine.
  • 75% say there will be symptoms if a person has high cholesterol.
  • 56% of respondents aged 40 to 60 assume that cholesterol level testing is needed at least every five years or more frequently.
  • Almost half of them (49%) disagree that someone with a healthy weight can have a high cholesterol level.

Despite all these misconceptions, most Malaysians (89%) are aware that unmanaged high cholesterol can lead to severe diseases such as cardiovascular, stroke, and other heart problems. Interestingly, 84% of the respondents wish for easier ways to manage high cholesterol.

However, the respondents noted that the source of information for cholesterol is mainly from health websites, social media, friends or family instead of credible sources such as doctors, pharmacists and the World Health Organisation (WHO).

“While the responses in the survey show that Malaysians claim to be well-informed on cholesterol, there are some fallacies in their sentiments as well,” justified MMA president Dr Muruga Raj Rajathurai

“First and foremost, there are no symptoms for high cholesterol. A blood test is the only way to detect it. The recommended cholesterol screenings for adults between 45 and 65 years old are every one to two years and should be done annually for those above 65.”

Therefore, taking charge of one’s health and doing regular health screenings is relatively important, according to Dr Muruga.

“Do not wait to visit the doctor when you feel unhealthy or unwell, everything may be too late,” he cautioned. “As a physician, I also strongly advise the public not to solely rely on health-related information from friends, family and social media as this way is often skewed through the sharing process.”

The State of Health of the Nation survey was conducted online in December 2022 in both Peninsular Malaysia and East Malaysia. It is nationally representative of the overall population by location, gender, and race. A total of 500 Malaysians between 40 to 64 years old responded to the survey.

Meanwhile, Novartis Malaysia’s country president Mohamed ElWakil said many people are unaware that cholesterol is one of the silent killers along with high blood pressure and diabetes.

“There are no obvious symptoms on someone,” he pointed out. “However, cholesterol can be managed if it is detected early. If detected, follow the doctor’s recommended treatment plan and lifestyle changes may help prevent severe heart-related problems.”

He added: “In fact, there are now easier and more convenient treatment plans available. Patients should actively seek the best treatment options from their doctors.”


Main pic credit: Medicover Hospitals

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