HEALTH ISSUES IN SUDDEN DEATH
A healthy lifestyle can help in stemming such occurrence
A former House of Representatives member and chieftain of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), a deputy bursar at a federal university, a businessman, and a National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) member were some of the people who reportedly died from shock during and after Nigeria’s victory over South Africa in the semifinal of the 34th Africa Cup of Nations in Côte d’Ivoire last Wednesday. Even when there were no autopsy reports to ascertain the real causes of these fatalities, experts believe that there could be underlining medical conditions before otherwise healthy people suddenly slumped and died.
It is noteworthy that the Nigerian Cardiac Society has waded in on the issue. In a statement signed by Augustine Odili, Chizindu Alikor and Adeseye Akintunde, all Professors of Medicine, the Society contends that “the reported deaths of at least four individuals occurring during the match leaves much to be desired on the cardiovascular health of Nigerians.” While admitting that it cannot speculate on the exact cause of the reported deaths, “we owe it a duty to call the attention of Nigerians to the very possibility that sudden death can occur either in the presence/ absence of risk factors many of which are highly prevalent among Nigerians and are also poorly controlled.”
Ordinarily, sudden death occurs when there are abnormal heart rhythms, and the heart is unable to pump blood. Within minutes, this could cause death unless emergency treatment is begun immediately. Incidentally, many of these incidents come without warning signs. In the case of sudden cardiac arrest for instance, over half of the victims die without symptoms. When there are signs, they come in the form of racing heartbeats or victims may feel dizzy, alerting them that a potentially dangerous heart problem has started. Other symptoms, according to experts include headache, chest discomfort, breathing problems, blurring vision and convulsion.
A few predisposing illnesses such as hypertension, stress, high cholesterol, and diabetes may precipitate a sudden death syndrome. In a country where many of the citizens resort to self-medication to bypass the cost of seeing a medical doctor, abuse of medications can result in dangerous drug interactions with lethal consequences, particularly among those who have pre-existing medical problems. Heart diseases, experts have long warned, could occur because of wrong diagnosis, which happens to be an issue in Nigeria. Many people who are obese or suffering from ill-managed diabetes can also easily fall victim of heart diseases and unexpected deaths.
However, the frequency of these deaths arising from cardiovascular or related diseases can be brought down considerably if people take time in keeping regular follow-up appointments with their doctors, taking medications as prescribed and making certain lifestyle changes. We therefore urge Nigerians to attend regular health screening, at least once a year. Indeed, it should be as regular as they service their cars and generators for those who can afford it. This gives them an opportunity to be updated on their health situation. In addition, quitting such habits like smoking, losing weight and exercising regularly can help in containing incidents of sudden death.
With preventive care and caution, according to the Nigerian Cardiac Society, Nigerians can support their football team without jeopardising their health in the process. While advocating more funding for the health sector at all levels, the Society also recommends a promotion of effective lifestyle modification to reduce the burden of cardiovascular diseases in the country. “We call on all Nigerians to look out for one another and promote healthy lifestyle. Together we can honour those we have lost by preventing similar tragedies in future.”
It is in our collective interest to heed the admonition.