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Singapore Heart Foundation Board Members 
Distinguished guests 
Ladies and gentlemen 

Good afternoon, everyone. It is my pleasure to be a part of Singapore Heart Foundation’s (SHF) National Heart Week/World Heart Day.

2. Personally, I know of family members and friends who are seeking treatment or going for surgery for cardiovascular diseases. I recently heard the unfortunate news of a resident suddenly passing away due to a heart attack. She was just 54 at the time of her passing. Indeed, since 2009, cardiovascular disease (CVD) has accounted for one-third of all deaths in Singapore every year. This is all the more reason for us to lead healthier lifestyles and minimise our chances of developing risk factors such as high blood pressure, that can lead to CVD.

3. We must continue our efforts in combatting these risk factors to better protect ourselves against CVD. The prevalence of hypertension has increased, from almost 20% in 2010, to 37% in 2022. This increasing trend was observed even after adjusting for the effect of an ageing population. The prevalence of obesity has also increased from 8.6% in 2013 to 11.6% in 2022. Fortunately, such risk factors can be mitigated by making changes to our daily lifestyle habits such as our diet and exercise. 

Efforts to promote healthier eating 

4. This theme of this year’s National Heart Week/World Heart Day is “Controlling Sodium Intake and High Blood Pressure”. Poor eating habits and sedentary lifestyles are contributing factors to our vulnerability to CVD. In particular, high sodium consumption is a driving factor behind CVD, and according to National Nutrition Survey (NNS) 2022, Singapore residents consume nearly twice the daily recommended limit for sodium per day. In a bid to help curb excessive sodium consumption among our residents in a practical and sustainable manner, the Health Promotion Board (HPB) has rolled out a sodium reduction strategy which involves working with major suppliers and retailers to expand the range of lower-sodium salt, sauces, and condiments and increase the adoption of lower-sodium alternatives in the food service sectors. HPB is also working with industry leaders in the Food and Beverage sector to reduce the sodium content in their dishes, by switching to use lower-sodium ingredients or adjusting their recipes. 

5. In addition, HPB’s multi-year public education campaign seeks to increase individuals’ awareness of their sodium intake and educate the public on the consequences of excessive sodium intake. It also hopes to shift the common misperception that the taste of our favourite foods will be compromised with less salt by sharing lower sodium recipes and providing simple tips for Singaporeans to lower their sodium intake. 

6. SHF and Nanyang Polytechnic have conducted a research study on one’s sensitivity to the taste of salt. The study found that older individuals with high blood pressure have a lower sensitivity to the taste of salt, compared to those without hypertension. The study also revealed that overweight individuals taste salty flavours less intensely and are thus more likely to consume salt-rich foods without realising it. Understanding this dynamic helps us recognise that tackling this problem requires a multifaceted approach. To prevent the issue of excessive sodium consumption from aggravating the problem of high blood pressure, we need to develop strategies that are tailored to the different population segments. 

7. High blood cholesterol and high blood sugar levels are also public health concerns that increase individuals’ risk of suffering from CVD. To eliminate a main source of trans fat from our diets, the Ministry of Health (MOH) had taken a definitive stance and introduced a ban on partially hydrogenated oils in all foods and oils since 2021. This has helped Singaporeans reduce their intake of trans fat, thus decreasing their risk of heart disease. The roll-out of the Nutri-Grade labelling and advertising prohibition measures for pre-packaged beverages last year also aim to help consumers be more aware of their sugar and saturated fat consumption, as well as to spur industry reformulation to develop healthier beverages. These measures will be extended to freshly prepared beverages by the end of this year as well. 

Efforts to promote an active lifestyle

8. Other than a well-balanced diet, regular exercise is crucial to improving our overall health and can significantly lower the risk of premature death, CVD, and other chronic illnesses. About three in four Singapore residents had sufficient total physical activity. This proportion is still below pre pandemic levels and suggests that there is a need to look into how best to motivate Singapore residents to engage in more physical activity. 

9. To encourage residents to be more active and work towards the recommended physical activity levels, HPB, together with Sport Singapore and community partners, has been organising many physical activity programmes for individuals of various ages and fitness levels. Individuals can come onboard the Healthy 365 app to access a wide range of these health-promoting programmes and community activities, as well as join self-directed programmes such as the National Steps Challenge. 

Efforts to promote smoking cessation

10. Smoking is another major risk factor for CVD. At a population-level, HPB continues to push education efforts to emphasise on the importance and benefits of leading a nicotine-free lifestyle. For smokers who wish to quit smoking, smoking cessation services, such as HPB’s I Quit programme, are also available to support them in their cessation journey. 

Importance of preventive health 

11. On top of diet and exercise, regular health screenings are also key to our well-being. Our national screening programme, Screen for Life, also offers eligible residents to go for regular screenings for the major risk factors of CVD, namely, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, diabetes, and obesity. HPB also encourages residents to follow up with their doctor post-screening to better manage their condition and prevent or reduce their risk of complications. 

12. With so many things to take note of, it may seem daunting to think of how to take these steps to improve our health on our own. This is why MOH recently launched Healthier SG, our multi-year strategy to transform Singapore’s healthcare system to pivot towards greater emphasis on preventive care. We have been progressively inviting eligible Singapore Citizens and Permanent Residents aged 40 and above to enrol with a Healthier SG general practitioner (GP) clinic or polyclinic of their choice. Together with their preferred doctors, enrolled residents can develop a personal health plan which includes health and lifestyle goals, and nationally recommended screenings and vaccinations. These screenings and vaccinations are fully subsidised for all enrolled Singapore Citizens. For those who are eligible and have not yet enrolled, I highly encourage you to do so. Under Healthier SG, you can also access a wide spectrum of programmes in the community to help you stay active and healthy. Making these adjustments to your lifestyle, together with professional support, will contribute to lowering your risk of CVD. 

13. Chronic conditions require long-term care and close monitoring to prevent or delay complications. For those with high blood pressure, it is important to monitor your blood pressure regularly, as high blood pressure increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases. For individuals aged 40 years and above without high blood pressure, they should monitor their blood pressure and take their measurements every two years. To increase the accessibility of blood pressure monitoring and to help detect elevated blood pressure, SHF has set up 10 Blood Pressure Awareness Booths at Residents’ Committees (RCs), Community Centres (CCs) and the Wellness Hub in the Bishan East-Sin Ming constituency for individuals with and without high blood pressure. Educational materials are available at the booths to guide individuals on how to accurately measure their blood pressure. This initiative will soon be rolled out island-wide, including in educational institutions and even the workplace, so that more individuals can keep a close tab on their health and take immediate action if their blood pressure readings deviate from the norm. While you are enjoying the activities here today, I encourage you to take a proactive step and visit the Blood Pressure Awareness Booth. 


14. Our heart health will only thrive if we take personal responsibility in adopting a lifestyle that supports it. I encourage everyone to take part in the many community programmes and activities available to better control your blood pressure and overall health, starting from the lineup at National Heart Week/World Heart Day 2023 today. 

15. I wish you all an enriching experience here and good health. Thank you.

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