As Cambodia transitions from a “least developed country” to “developing country”, fast food chains from wealthier nations are also pouring into the Cambodian market – in response to demand from the younger generation, who are looking for trendy things, tasty foods, and also tend to have a distaste for physical labour. These are some of the driving factors behind the emergence of modern diseases such as obesity, hypertension, diabetes, heart diseases and even cancer.
There are no exact numbers or data on which, or how many types of food, can cause such problems.
“Eating a lot of fast food creates a lot of risks for our health, and it’s even more dangerous when the person doesn’t engage in any sort of exercise or labour,” said Choun Kim Cheng, expert on communicable diseases and general health consultation at the Sihanouk Hospital of Hope Center.
He explained that fast food is usually cooked in a huge amount of fat; therefore, the huge amounts of fat in the food combined with the already present protein creates an oversupply of lipids in our body, which in turn causes problems such as fat enveloping the heart, the liver, and arteries, as well as fat embolism, hypertension, hepatic diseases and even cancer.
Ly Cheng Houy, an expert on public health and moderator of the health website Cambodia Health, said young people can face “a number of modern diseases that mostly stem from dietary factors like eating food high in lipids, protein, and carbohydrates”.
He explained that the higher the living standards, the more people eat and the less they work, which provide the opportunity for illness and modern diseases to invade. The most important thing is to raise “awareness regarding health issues” – something that is gravely needed in order to adapt to the developing economy.
“These days, if we examine the older demographic, we will find that they’re afflicted with hypertension and diabetes, which is fatal to their lives,” he said.
According to a report by the Ministry of Health back in 2014, there were 145,077 cases of hypertension the year before, with 90,892 of them afflicting women, compared to just 127,061 cases in 2012. As for diabetes, the report showed that there were 2,810 cases in 2013 compared to 2,082 cases in 2012.
“People with hypertension can be compared to people carrying a bomb with them wherever they go, one day it will explode and we will either die, or have half of our body paralysed; therefore, people with this condition should be highly cautious and should consult with doctors frequently,” he said. According to his personal observations, Kimcheng observed that the number diseases most often affecting the health of Cambodian citizens, in order of severity, are hypertension, diabetes, osteoporis – which isn’t fatal but is uncomfortable, and gastric diseases.
In an exclusive interview, Hay Ly Eang, head of the pharmaceutical company PPM, explained that educating people on “health, diet, and lifestyle is extremely important for everyone”.
“People not only have to know when they need to see a doctor, but they also need to know how to prevent these diseases,” he said. “The source of most diseases comes from the patients themselves when they don’t watch what they eat.”
Hay Ly Eang explained that people create the majority of their illnesses by having a bad diet and by becoming infected with communicable diseases through contact with their surroundings.
In order to avoid various illnesses, renowned doctors always advise, “Prevention is better than treatment,” doctors always advise, in order to avoid illnesses.
This proverb not only refer to keeping germs and pathogens from entering the body, but also to preventing germs and pathogen from taking hold inside the body through hygienic and healthy living.
Most serious illness, including, cancer, hepatic diseases, stroke, cardiac arrest, can be prevented or contained. “If we catch the diseases in its earlier stages, doctors can help cure diseases more successfully,” said Preap Ley, head of the surgical department and cancer specialist at SHCH.
Health Statistics in 2013
The Phnom Penh Post extracted some data from the Ministry of Health report titled Health achievements in 2013 and 2014 targets for all readers:
2,179 – cases of cancer of the breasts, lungs, liver, cervix, and uterus.
2,795 – cases of heart disease, compared to 2012 with 4,834 cases.
145,077 – cases of hyptertension (90,892 cases among women) compared to 2012 numbers with 127,061 cases.
2,810 – cases of diabetes (female 1,607 cases) compared to the numbers in 2012 with 2,082 cases.
10,187,790 – cases of health consultation of both sexes and of all ages compared to 10,426,420 cases in 2012, and 10,424,857 cases in 2011.
6,182 – number of people who died in the hospital compared to 6,045 in 2012.