Last week, Mrs. Bola Johnson slumped and died one evening in her compound. When she hit the ground, her neighbours rushed her to the hospital close to their estate in Lagos.
But the mother of one was pronounced dead on arrival. There was nothing the doctor on duty and his team could do to save her life. She was gone, just like that. Her neighbours couldn’t believe it.
Two weeks ago, a father of five and a banker, Mr. Francis Obinwanne suddenly slumped at a popular bus stop in Lagos close to his house and died. His demise left his wife, children and family members in grief. He was in his late forties.
His wife, Mrs. Nneka Obinwanne told Saturday Sun that she feels his sudden death is a bad dream she hopes to wake up from. She noted that he wasn’t sick and didn’t show any symptoms of being ill the day he died.
“The day he died, we had breakfast that morning with our children and he was hale and hearty. He even took the children to school and went to work. He died on his way back home from work
What is sudden death?
A sudden death is any kind of death that happens unexpectedly. This includes suicide, road crash or other transport disaster, drowning, falling, fire or other tragedy.
Other causes of sudden death are undiagnosed advanced terminal illness, such as advanced cancer, sudden natural causes, such as heart attack, brain hemorrhage or cot death.
Causes of slumping and dying
Sudden death is most often caused by heart disease. When blood vessels narrow, the heart muscle can become irritated because of lack of blood supply.
In heart attack (acute myocardial infarction), a blood vessel becomes completely blocked by a blood clot, and there is enough irritability of the muscle to cause ventricular fibrillation.
In fact, the reason many people with chest pain are admitted to the hospital is to monitor their heart rate and rhythm for signs that might lead to ventricular fibrillation. Sudden death may also be the first sign or symptom of heart disease.
Congestive heart failure and heart valve problems, like aortic stenosis which is narrowing of the aortic valve also increase the risk of sudden cardiac arrest. In 2016, researches conducted by some Nigerian teaching hospitals identified stroke and heart attack as the major causes of over 93.7 percent of the sudden and unexpected deaths (SUD) in the country. The researchers also found that more males than females, at a ratio of 2:1, are affected, and the average age of the victims is “47.3 years.
They blamed the rise in SUD on rural to urban migration, increased salt and fat intake from the consumption of processed foods, increased tobacco use and sedentary lifestyle.
The studies were conducted by the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Idi-Araba; Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospital (OAUTH); University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital (UPTH); and the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital (UMTH), among others. The World Health Organization identifies cardiovascular disease as the leading cause of death and disability in the world.
According to the World Health Organization website, cardiovascular disease is responsible for the deaths of an estimated 17.5 million people each year, summing it up as a third of all deaths on the planet and half of all non-communicable disease-related deaths. The website stated that around 80 per cent of these deaths occur in low and middle-income countries where human and financial resources are least able to address cardiovascular diseases.
“By 2030, almost 23.6 million people will die from CVDs, mainly from heart disease and stroke. These are projected to remain the single leading causes of death in the world.”
Dr. Gabriel Omonaiye told Saturday Sun that hypertension is one major risk factor for sudden death in Nigeria. He noted that many people joke with their blood pressure and leave their health to chance and that is why some are just slumping and dying.
He said: “Hypertension that is not controlled or not properly controlled can lead to malignant hypertension. A person who suddenly develops heart palpitation which means the heart is not well coordinated can die if he or she is not properly attended to.”
Omonaiye added that there can be a background heart failure that is not well treated. Some patients have been diagnosed of specific heart diseases due to stress. Apart from just having blood pressure, more stress can take that patient to a situation where the heart cannot cope again and the person suddenly slumps and dies.
How to avoid sudden deaths
Dr. Omonaiye stated that apart from the blood pressure check, the heart is like a point connected to the pipe. If the vessels connected to the pipe are not well taken care of, it would also affect the heart. This is why doctors emphasize that people should have a cholesterol check, a body mass index and work on their lifestyles.
“Nigerians need to check their blood pressure regularly, avoid stress as much as possible although it cannot be avoided it can be reduced. Exercise regularly so that blood can flow regularly and have access a blood pressure check. Everyone should be able to check their body mass to make sure they are fit as well as their blood sugar level.”
Omonaiye advised Nigerians to engage in aerobics to pamper their hearts, saying they need not lift weight but engage in simple activities like jogging, walking and yoga exercise.
“There are many Nigerians who walk around believing they are healthy but they are not. Many people do not even know that they have high blood pressure and sometimes, it doesn’t really show any symptoms so it causes sudden death. In some instances, there are cases of heart disorder, diseases of the heart or abnormalities in the heart’s electrical activities. Either of these diseases can cause people to have heart symptoms and die shortly after.”
Omonaiye revealed that there are some people who are diagnosed of heart diseases but don’t take their drugs. Those people have underlying conditions and have not been careful and deliberate with their health.
According to Omonaiye, the most important thing is for people to go for checkup regularly. Most importantly, if they have a family history of heart problem or other health conditions, their medical check-ups should be a must.
“The important way to live healthy is to go for a checkup, avoid smoking, excessive alcohol, sedentary lifestyle and excessive consumption of unhealthy foods. Many Nigerians need to start exercising, it is very important for heart health, Omonaiye added.”