Last year, when I finally dragged myself to visit the dentist, he said my wisdom teeth were at risk of decaying.
“If you don’t take care, they may have to be extracted,” he warned.
I was scared into brushing my teeth more diligently – but for only a few weeks.
It is just so easy to be lackadaisical, because I’m not suffering any horrible consequences – yet.
So I can empathise with people who, after being diagnosed with diabetes, still guzzle soft drinks, gorge on fried food and refuse to take medication.
They dismiss the disease because they don’t feel that it is doing anything to them.
By the time it does, it will be too late. The consequences could be a heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, the loss of a limb, or death.
Diabetes affects about 1 in 11 people here. To prevent more people from developing diabetes and its complications, the authorities here have made efforts to ramp up awareness of the disease and preventive measures in recent years.
For example, the Health Promotion Board (HPB) started the national Integrated Screening Programme in 2008, offering Singaporeans aged 40 to 69 a blood test for high cholesterol and diabetes at a subsidised fee of $8.
It is now easier for cash-strapped patients to buy medication, to encourage them to stick to regular treatment.
The Health Ministry allowed people to use their compulsory medical savings, Medisave, to pay for outpatient treatment for chronic diseases in 2006.
But what good would all the screening and aid do, if people detected with diabetes decline to do anything about it?
Perhaps it’s time to shake patients out of their complacency, say, with a “shock” campaign, like that for smoking.
The use of graphic images of body parts diseased from smoking-related conditions on cigarette packs, introduced in 2004, has helped deter smokers.
An HPB survey found that 47 per cent of respondents cut the number of cigarettes they smoke after seeing the images, and 25 per cent said they were motivated to quit.
The national smoking rate fell from 20 per cent in 1980 to 13.6 per cent in 2007. For diabetic patients, the picture on this edition’s cover should have a salutary effect.