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Sudden Death

Sudden Death

Sudden death is often described as an unanticipated death which has different causes. It comes as a shock, like a bolt from the blue. This must have been the case with the families of the Commissioner for Housing and Urban Development in Plateau State, Mr Samuel Galadima, who slumped and died while jogging and also the College Administrator of Holy Child College, Lagos, Reverend Sister Rose Mary Atuegbu who died hours after a school function. The two deaths qualify as sudden deaths because they were unexpected and unanticipated.

By its very definition, sudden death is more likely to occur among children, young people, and healthy mid-life adults. Most sudden deaths are usually attributed to cardiac arrest. It may be the most common cause but not the only cause.  Ailments like coronary heart disease, physical stress, low levels of magnesium, low levels of potassium, major blood loss, low blood sugar, diabetes, lack of oxygen, severe physical activity which triggers adrenaline, inherited disorders, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, and enlarged heart due to increased blood pressure contribute to the causes of what is generally known as cardiac arrest.

For a sudden death to occur, something must have happened to the heart such as a sudden stop in effective blood flow due to the failure of the heart to contract effectively. Symptoms include fainting, fatigue, blackouts, dizziness, chest pain, shortness of breath, weakness, and vomiting. Loss of consciousness and abnormal or absent breathing do occur. The arrest may also occur with no warning.  If not treated within minutes, death usually occurs.

A United States of America- based report on the incidence indicates that sudden cardiac-related deaths occur in approximately one per 200,000 young athletes per year, usually triggered during competition or practice. For a normally healthy age group, the risk appears to be particularly magnified in competitive basketball, with sudden cardiac death rates as high as one per 3,000 annually for male basketball players in NCAA Division. This is still far below the rate for the general population, estimated as one per 1,300–1,600 and dominated by the elderly. However, a population as large as the United States will experience the sudden cardiac death of a competitive athlete at the average rate of one every three days, often with significant media coverage heightening public attention.

Part of that report also stated that cardiac arrest outside of hospital occurs in about 13 per 10,000 people per year (326,000 cases). In- hospital cardiac arrest occurs in an additional 209,000. Cardiac arrest becomes more common with age. It affects males more often than females. The percentage of people who survive with treatment is about eight percent. Many who survive have significant disability. Prevention includes not smoking, physical activity, and maintaining a healthy weight. Treatment for cardiac arrest is immediate cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and, if a shockable rhythm is present, defibrillation. Among those who survive, targeted temperature management may improve outcomes. An implantable cardiac defibrillator may be placed to reduce the chance of death from recurrence.

Health authorities are becoming concerned that sudden death is an emerging phenomenon in Nigeria, a country with a burden of preventable communicable and non-communicable diseases. Experts bl ame this development on the rapid adoption of western lifestyle, the almost complete dependence on vehicular transport as well as stress that accompany infrastructural facilities and processes of human development. These, they worry,  synergistically  predispose individuals to preventable non-communicable atherosclerotic diseases –  common arterial diseases in which raised areas of degeneration and cholesterol deposits plaques form on the inner surfaces of the arteries obstructing blood flow which culminate in sudden cardiac death. A report from the University of Ife, Ile- Ife in Osun State concluded that hypertensive heart disease is the most common cause of sudden cardiac death in Nigerians, and many of hypertensive cases were previously undiagnosed. Cases of coronary heart disease and myocardial infraction played significant roles as causes of sudden cardiac death, indicating that their incidence may not be as rare among Nigerians as previously thought.

We share the views of Health education experts, which teach individuals and families in the community to value health as a personal asset. If adopted, they aver, it can modify noxious behavioural lifestyles into health promoting behavioural lifestyles, capable of preventing non-communicable diseases that are direct causation of sudden death. There is, therefore, a need to research into the direct causes of sudden cardiac death in Nigeria with the aim of providing evidence-based information to the policy makers for sustainable social environmental and behavioural modification that will nick this ugly trend in the bud.

However, and while that is on, regular visits to the doctor can be of preventive help.

Story Credit: https://leadership.ng/opinions/579506/sudden-death