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Speech by Dr Janil Puthucheary, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Health, at National Heart Week / World Heart Day 2022, 17 Sep

Mrs Regina Lee, National Heart Week / World Heart Day 2022 Organising Committee Chairperson

Board Members of Singapore Heart Foundation

Distinguished guests

Ladies and gentlemen

1.     It is my pleasure to join you at the Singapore Heart Foundation’s (SHF) annual National Heart Week and World Heart Day. I am glad to see so many of you here today, eager to learn more about cardiovascular disease (CVD) and take personal responsibility for your health. The focus of this year’s National Heart Week/ World Heart Day is on high blood cholesterol, and aims to educate Singaporeans about the risks of having this condition and what we can do to lower our cardiovascular risk and improve our heart health.

CVD and high blood cholesterol as a risk factor

2.     Between 2009 and 2019, CVD accounted for about one third of all deaths in Singapore every year[1], with high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, and physical inactivity being the major risk factors. The National Population Health Survey 2020 revealed an increase in the prevalence of high blood cholesterol and hypertension from 26.2% in 2010 to 39.1% in 2020, and from 19.8% in 2010 to 35.5% in 2020 respectively.

3.     High blood cholesterol, also known as hyperlipidaemia, occurs when your body’s level of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad” cholesterol, as well as triglycerides, is too high, while high-density lipoprotein (HDL) or “good” cholesterol is low. Too much LDL in the blood may cause plaque formation in the blood vessels, raising the risk of developing heart diseases and stroke.

Encouraging Singaporeans to adopt a healthier diet

4.     For many, high blood cholesterol arises from an unhealthy diet rich in saturated and trans fats. To better support Singaporeans in making healthier food choices, the Health Promotion Board (HPB) uses the Healthier Choice Symbol, a front-of-pack label with a simple visual identifier to help consumers identify healthier food products and ingredients easily, such as those that are lower in saturated fat, which are better for our heart health. The Eat, Drink, Shop Healthy Challenge on Healthy 365 app also encourages the purchase of healthier options.

5.     In June 2021, the Ministry of Health (MOH) introduced a ban on partially hydrogenated oils (PHO) as an ingredient in all foods including fats, oils and pre-packaged food products to eliminate artificial trans fat in Singaporeans’ diets. The PHO ban is a step towards lowering Singaporeans’ cardiovascular risk as trans fat is known to raise LDL cholesterol levels, and lower HDL cholesterol levels, which increases the risk of heart disease.

6.     I am heartened to note that SHF will be working with online grocery store Shopee Supermarket this World Heart Day, to educate consumers on heart-smart shopping. Through a list of heart-healthy foods curated on the shopping app by SHF’s dietitian, we can learn to identify the sources of good fats, whole-grains and fibrous foods that can be incorporated into our diet to improve our blood cholesterol profile.

7.     Apart from reducing fat intake, we will also need to reduce our sodium intake which is associated with increased risk of hypertension, another risk factor for heart disease and stroke. In March 2022, we announced a three-pronged sodium strategy comprising sodium substitution, increasing the availability of lower-sodium sauces and seasonings, and public education to reduce sodium consumption. We are working with food operators to substitute regular salt with lower-sodium alternatives, and with suppliers and manufacturers to increase the range of lower-sodium ingredients, and will be launching a nationwide public education campaign in the coming months.

Increasing physical activity

8.     Besides adopting a healthier diet, engaging in regular physical activity also helps to manage blood cholesterol levels and lower the risk of developing CVD. To encourage Singaporeans to be more active, HPB’s National Steps Challenge uses gamification and technology to empower and encourage Singaporeans to keep active. We can start by making small changes in our daily routine, such as alighting at an earlier bus stop, choosing the stairs over the lift, or taking part in the exercise sessions here at today’s World Heart Day event.

Going for regular health screening and follow-up

9.     It is important to go for regular health screening for early detection of chronic diseases to enable early intervention. Based on the National Population Health Survey 2020, among all Singapore residents with high blood cholesterol or hypertension, slightly more than half (54.5% and 52.4% respectively) had not been previously diagnosed with the condition.

10.     To encourage more Singaporeans to go for regular health screening and the necessary follow-up, subsidised screening tests for cardiovascular risk factors, such as obesity, high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes, are offered at General Practitioner clinics under the Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS). Under this national Screen for Life programme, eligible Singaporeans pay no more than $5 for the screening tests, screening visit consultation and the first follow-up consultation if required. I strongly encourage you to take advantage of the available screening programmes and take charge of your health. For those with chronic diseases, do continue to attend the regular follow-up appointments with your doctor to ensure optimal control of your condition, which can prevent CVD and its complications.

Healthier SG and SHF as a strong community partner

11.     Under the Healthier SG strategy, MOH will work with our primary care sector and various community care providers to enhance preventive health and chronic disease management. Strong community outreach from partners like SHF will complement these efforts in encouraging more Singaporeans to take the necessary steps to improve their health. If all of us, including individuals, family doctors, community partners and the government, work together, we can offer more holistic care and support to our residents.

12.     To kickstart our heart-healthy journey this weekend, SHF has organised a series of health talks, nutrition games and heart-pumping exercises where you can learn more about high blood cholesterol.

13.     Thank you SHF for your continued support in promoting heart health and preventing CVD in Singapore. I hope all of you will enjoy and benefit from the various activities this weekend. Thank you.

[1] Between 2009-2019, CVD accounted for 30.2-33.0% of all deaths in Singapore every year. Data source:

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