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Nur Syahindah Ishak
The New Paper
Nov 12, 2018
Local celebrity Michelle Chong and her father Steven, better known as Papa Chong, know what it is like to deal with diabetes and heart disease.
Mr Chong, 71, was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes 30 years ago and also had to undergo a triple bypass surgery.
Chong, 41, was by her father's side through it all.
The World Heart Federation reported earlier this year that people with diabetes are two to four times more likely to develop heart disease, and half the heart attack victims in Singapore have diabetes.
The duo are ambassadors of For Your Sweetheart, a nationwide campaign that aims to raise awareness of the critical link between these two conditions. It is helmed by Diabetes Singapore, Singapore Heart Foundation and Boehringer Ingelheim, a pharmaceutical company.
They were at the Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition Centre on Nov 4 for an event organised by Diabetes Singapore to commemorate World Diabetes Day on Wednesday (Nov 14).
Chong told The New Paper: "I was doing my A levels at the time when his heart disease developed to the point where he had to have a triple bypass surgery.
"It was very shocking when I went to visit him in the hospital after he had his triple bypass surgery, to see him all tubed up and vulnerable."
Bypass surgery is done when arteries that supply blood to the heart are damaged. A triple bypass is required when three arteries are blocked or damaged.
Mr Chong still has diabetes.
He said: "When I was working, I used to eat a lot of outside food. I could eat four roti pratas at one go."
After he was diagnosed with diabetes, his family has been watching over him to ensure he does not consume too much of sugary or oily foods.
They also stay active together by doing brisk walks and playing table tennis.
Said the actress: "His condition has definitely brought us closer together because I am always involved in his lifestyle choices. This has also taught all of us siblings that we need to take care of our parents' health and our own health."
Mr Chong also shared his personal experience with diabetes and heart disease, and how family support is important for patients with diabetes.
His daughter talked about her perspective as a family member of someone who has diabetes and heart disease.
Said Mr Chong: "For someone living with diabetes, the support of the family is very important in making sure that the condition is managed well. Don't be scared to rely on your family to help you."
Dr Mohd Azhar Ahmad, 46, head of the medical department at Boehringer Ingelheim Malaysia and Singapore, explained the connection between diabetes and heart disease.
He said: "Over time, uncontrolled high blood sugar can damage blood vessels and nerves leading to the heart. This can raise blood pressure levels."
He added that having diabetes can also increase levels of cholesterol.
"All these factors combined increase the risk for heart disease in diabetic patients," said Dr Azhar.