Low level of awareness over obesity poses risks

PUBLISHED : Monday, 07 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 07 January, 2008, 12:00am

When 73-year-old Chan Pui-fai found that his 110.5cm waistline was not good for his health, he had already developed diabetes.

'I have had a big belly since I was 30 years old, as I drank [high-fat drinks] and I seldom exercised,' Mr Chan said. 'Six years ago, I was diagnosed with high blood pressure, but I never thought that a big belly was a serious problem ... If I had known, I would have tried to diet.'

Mr Chan said he thought his waistline was 99cm as he wore trousers of that size, but the doctor who measured his waist at the level of his navel found it to be 110.5cm.

The Community Rehabilitation Network of the Hong Kong Society for Rehabilitation found that about 10 to 15 per cent of 700,000 diabetic patients in Hong Kong had abdominal obesity, but many did not realise it.

The group interviewed 245 people last year. About 70 per cent thought the accumulation of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol - known commonly as 'good cholesterol' - would lead to cardiovascular disease. In reality, however, it is the opposite, with low-density cholesterol a cause of heart disease.

Eighty per cent of the respondents said they knew their waist circumferences. However, of that number, 60 per cent got it wrong because they took the size of their trousers to be their waist size instead of taking the measurement around the stomach.

Lo Kwok-wing, assistant director of health assessment at Hong Kong Sanatorium and Hospital, said the standard average waistline suggested for Asian men was 90cm, while for women it was 80cm, according to the International Diabetes Federation.

He said that about 40 per cent of in-patients in the departments of medicine and geriatric services at public hospitals had problems associated with diabetes, while about 30 per cent suffered from complications caused by diabetes, including kidney and heart failures.