How modern life is slowly killing Vietnamese

By VnExpress   January 3, 2017 | 12:52 am PT
How modern life is slowly killing Vietnamese
People do exercise on a misty morning beside Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi, Vietnam. Photo credit to the National Tourism Administration
An average office worker in Vietnam only walks 600 steps per day, far below the recommended 10,000.

Vietnam is seeing unprecedented levels of lifestyle diseases such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease, health experts have warned, blaming the alarming trend on the lack of physical activity.

A study jointly conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Ministry of Health show that 15.6 percent of Vietnamese men were overweight or obese in 2015, about three times more than a decade earlier. The rate among women almost doubled to 24 percent.

The study also revealed that 30.2 percent of Vietnamese were diagnosed with high blood cholesterol and 12.5 percent of those aged between 40 and 69 suffered high risks of heart disease.

Le Bach Mai, deputy head of the National Institute of Nutrition, said the number of Vietnamese with hypertension has doubled in the past five years while the rate of diabetes has surged 200 percent in the past 10 years.

As the economy expands, so does the average waistline. Rising income levels have changed habit diets and resulted in the growing popularity of Western fast food. Health experts have also pinned the blame on daily physical inactivity.

A survey by the health ministry of about 4,000 Vietnamese adults from 18 to 69 showed that 70 percent of the respondents are not involved in vigorous physical activity. And a third of the surveyed do less physical exercise than recommended.

According to WHO, a person who is sufficiently active should get at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity per week.

Do Thi Ngoc Diep, head of Ho Chi Minh City’s Nutrition Center, said at a recent workshop that adults are advised to take 10,000 daily steps or nine kilometers but many Vietnamese, especially office workers, do not get even close to reaching the goal.

An average office worker only walks about 600 steps per day, she said.

Ho Chi Minh City’s health authorities are planning a campaign to raise public awareness in the benefits of regular physical activity.

“When the city’s top leaders set a good example, surely millions of people will get inspired to exercise more,” Diep said.

Nguyen Thanh Long, Deputy Health Minister, said the medical costs for the treatment of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and heart disease are 40-50 times higher than the costs for infectious diseases, taxing already fragile public health systems and posing significant risks for future generations.

Official statistics show that non-communicable diseases, mostly cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes, account for about 160,000 deaths in the age group between 30 and 70 each year.

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