Singaporeans are fond of making health resolutions – lose weight, exercise more, eat better, stop smoking, sleep earlier, drink less, etc – but how many of us actually stick to our annual goal to get healthy?


If, like me, you started the year with a resolution to live healthier so you can reduce your health risks but haven’t quite gotten anywhere after a few months (again!), don’t fret. You haven’t failed. I’ve got tips to help you.


Here’s what I’ll cover:


Potential health gains from sticking to your health resolution


As hard as it can sometimes be, keeping up with your health resolution goes a long way to help decrease your health risks. In Singapore, there’s a growing problem of chronic illnesses that increase the risk of heart disease. A chronic illness is a medical condition that persists over a long time and gradually gets worse.


While the people around me generally appear healthy, the numbers tell a different story. Many people carry “invisible conditions” like diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure) and high cholesterol, which are chronic and predispose them to heart disease. In the early stages, patients with these conditions could feel perfectly normal, but therein lies the danger: they could be completely unaware of the damage these illnesses have been doing for months or years until complications arise.


Chronic illnesses - a growing problem in Singapore


Here’s how widespread these three chronic illnesses are in the population.



Number of cases in the population1


1 in 10


1 in 3

High cholesterol

4 in 10

Diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol are all risk factors for cardiovascular disease, which is the big bad guy when it comes to the causes of death in Singapore. In 2021, cardiovascular disease accounted for 32% of all deaths, which means one in three deaths was due to heart disease or stroke2.


What’s unsettling is that the number of deaths attributed to cardiovascular disease has been creeping up2. It certainly made me think twice about ordering a burger for lunch today. Will the numbers continue to increase, or can the trend be reversed? It really depends on us.



Number of deaths due to cardiovascular disease2








How your health resolution can help you keep chronic illnesses at bay


Diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol are often called lifestyle illnesses. In other words, they result from the choices you make in life – what you eat, how much physical activity you get in a week, how much sleep you get and so on. Prescription medications may be powerful in managing symptoms of these conditions, but wouldn’t it better if you could enjoy doing the things you love without having to remember to pop pills or do finger prick tests all the time?


The key is to minimise your odds of developing these conditions in the first place. That’s where your resolution to improve your health comes in, but it doesn’t have to be hard. With a few lifestyle changes, you could prolong your healthy years and lower your risk of getting more serious illnesses or becoming severely disabled, which would in turn mean spending less money on medical care. As chronic illnesses tend to span many years, the costs – financial, psychological or otherwise – add up and become harder to manage over time.


Is it time for your New Year resolution review? Read on for simple lifestyle switches you can make to catch up on your goal to lead a healthier life.



Four lifestyle switches to fulfil your New Year’s health resolution and lower your risk of chronic illnesses


Here are four lifestyle switches to lower your health risks and minimise your visits to the doctor. Rest assured, there are no drastic lifestyle modifications or torturous diets and workouts involved – these are simple enough to follow for the long term.


Lifestyle switch 1: Opt for healthier hawker meals

At hawker centres, it can seem hard to avoid food that isn’t loaded with sodium and greasy fat. Increasingly, though, I’m seeing more guilt-free meal options and loving it. Look out for the “healthier choice” symbol at stalls. This indicates that healthier amounts of oil and salt are used to make meals, or that you can make your meal more nutritious by adding green leafy vegetables or choosing whole grain alternatives which help reduce the risk of diabetes, heart disease and obesity. This simple habit is more sustainable than a fad diet as it gives you long-lasting health benefits without having to drastically eliminate your favourite foods from your life.


Lifestyle switch 2: Put your phone away before bed

For most of us, the day begins and ends with our phone screens. This seemingly harmless practice can have a big impact on your overall health. There is mounting evidence that the blue light emitted by mobile phones not only makes you more alert, but inhibits the production of melatonin, the sleep-regulating hormone. Not getting enough sleep increases the risk of heart disease and obesity, while also compromising your immunity, memory and mood.


So, when you're struggling to ignore those pop-up notifications, think of the long-term consequences of giving in and put your phone away – preferably on “do not disturb” mode – at least 30 minutes before you hit the sack.


Lifestyle switch 3: Spend more time outdoors

You’ve heard this again and again, and there’s a reason behind it. Spending time outdoors has consistently proven to be good for the mind, body and soul. The benefits include:


  • getting more vitamin D and exercise, which is good for bone health and overall fitness
  • improving your vision by taking you away from close work where you focus on near objects
  • curbing depression by restoring and boosting your mental capacity and helping you focus


Living in a city with one of the highest forest densities in the world makes it easy to build a regular habit of walking in a nature park or exploring hidden walking trails. Yup, you don’t have to run for hours to benefit (although, if you are an avid runner, you should know when to see a doctor for running pain). Even a quick outdoor swim can decrease blood pressure, stress hormones and symptoms of anxiety, and is an excellent way to maintain a healthy heart while boosting energy levels. The outdoors is nature’s gift to mankind and the more time you spend in it, the more you gain.


Lifestyle switch 4: Educate yourself

High internet connectivity puts health and wellness information and advice at our fingertips. While it may seem easier to rely on Google rather than consult a medical practitioner for medical advice, basing health decisions on information that doesn’t consider your individual medical history can be risky. A more practical habit would be to get health advice only from trusted and credible sources.


Integrated Shield plans give you access to a panel of medical specialists whom you can consult at preferred outpatient fees. So, if you’re an Integrated Shield plan policyholder and you’re tempted to google your health symptoms, make an appointment to speak to a doctor instead. You can clarify your doubts and follow a prescribed treatment plan that’s shaped around your individual healthcare needs.


A final note

The four simple lifestyle switches I’ve shared can help you score your health resolution and keep chronic conditions at bay. It may take a while to see results but what’s important is that you start somewhere and remember that persistence pays. With a lower risk of diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol as well as access to medical specialist help when you need it, you’ll worry less about cardiovascular disease. So, get on track with your health resolutions today and look forward to more healthy years doing the things you enjoy with the people you love.




1. Source: Ministry of Health, National population health survey 2020, published in November 2021.

2. Source: Singapore Heart Foundation, Heart Disease Statistics, accessed on 26 June 2023.

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