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Health: Beware of Sudden Death

This is for you, my readers. Please, read this essay and share it with others, because your continued existence or theirs may depend on it. You, your relative, your friend, your neighbour, your acquaintance, or your co-worker may be the next victim of sudden death, if necessary precautions are not taken. Now!

In case you’ve not been tracking the phenomenon, let me remind you of some high profile cases, which heightened the concern about sudden death among the elite. They include the deaths of a former Minister of Health, Prof. Olikoye Ransome-Kuti; popular lawyer and socialite, Debo Akande (SAN); his wife, also a lawyer, Prof. Jadesola Akande; and a former Managing Director of Nigeria Flour Mills, Babatunde Amusu, the Captain.

In case you have forgotten about the above cases of sudden death, consider these recent ones, all within the last six months. They include a former Ondo State Governor, Dr. Olusegun Agagu; Senator Pius Akpor Ewherido, representing Delta State; Dean of the Faculty of Arts, University of Ibadan, Prof. Kolawole Olu-Owolabi; Speaker of the Taraba State House of Assembly, Haruna Tsokwa; Ondo State Member of the House of Representatives, Raphael Nomiye; and, just last week, a former Ondo State Commissioner for Information, Ranti Akerele; and a prominent Owo lawyer, Olufemi Adeyeri.

I happen to know almost everyone on the above lists, some very intimately. Besides, I was once close to sudden death myself. I had developed a massive blood clot, technically known as Deep Vein Thrombosis, induced by the medication I once used for about six months, which caused liquid retention and swelling all over my body. The clot was detected only because I requested my doctor to order an Ultra Sound for me. Although I observed no symptoms of a clot, I made the request because I was preparing for a long haul flight from Philadelphia to Dubai. Lo and behold, a clot, stretching nearly three inches, was detected in the left femoral area. I was immediately hospitalised for three days for intensive care and later put on Warfarin tablets for at least six months. I also was given heparin-filled syringes with which I injected heparin into my stomach wall every day for two weeks, following discharge from the hospital.

My knowledge about the dangers of blood clot informed my request for Ultra Sound. That knowledge came from research into blood clot, following the sudden loss of a dear friend, Amusu, to undetected blood clot, which led to massive pulmonary embolism. Like heart disease, discussed below, blood clot is a silent killer. There may be no symptoms at all until the clot suddenly breaks. When that happens, a small lump can block blood flow to certain organs or lead to excessive accumulation of blood in others. The outcome could be instant death, as in some of the cases listed above.

However, the leading cause of sudden death is cardiac arrest, caused by coronary heart disease or uncontrolled hypertension (high blood pressure). Although the causes of hypertension may be unknown, the contributory factors are well known. They include genetic inheritance, dietary habits, excessive weight, lack of physical exercise, and age. Another contributory factor is high cholesterol, which leads to the accumulation of fatty acids in the blood vessels. The subsequent clogging of the blood vessels can lead to a heart attack or stroke.

Most of these same factors also contribute to coronary heart disease, which results from the buildup of plaque along the inner walls of the arteries of the heart. As a result, the arteries are narrowed and blood flow to the heart is reduced gradually to the point of full constriction. What often follows is a heart attack. As of 2012, coronary heart disease was the most common cause of death in the world. Yet, it is a silent killer, whose symptoms may never show up until the advanced stages of the disease. That’s why it is important to undergo appropriate tests in order to detect early signs of coronary heart disease or hypertension, and take appropriate remedial action. Anyone who survives a heart attack should immediately seek proper treatment and follow through with the prescribed lifelong treatment.

Another contributory factor to sudden death is diabetes, caused by an array of factors including those that cause hypertension. A recent British study shows that even one drink of soda (diet or non-diet) per day could increase the chance of diabetes by as much as 22 per cent!

There are three types of diabetes. Type 1 is caused by non-production of insulin by the body. Patients need to take insulin injection for the rest of their life and also monitor their glucose level regularly. Only about 10 per cent of diabetics suffer from Type 1.

The vast majority, about 90 per cent, suffer from Type 2 diabetes, in which the body fails to produce enough insulin or the cells in the body do not react sufficiently to insulin. Although many patients may be able to control this type of diabetes by losing weight, following a healthy diet, exercising well, and monitoring their blood glucose levels, it must be borne in mind that it is a progressive disease. It must be monitored regularly.

Type 3 diabetes is much less common than Type 1, and it is restricted to those pregnant women who produce very high levels of glucose, while their bodies fail to produce enough insulin to transport the excess glucose into their cells. Again, many patients of this type of diabetes can control it with a healthy diet and regular physical exercise.

Millions of Nigerians are afflicted with Type 2 diabetes, most of them without knowing it. There are three basic tests to detect diabetes. One is the A1C test, which basically measures your diabetic level or predisposition to it. In general, a 6.5 per cent and above reading means diabetes; 5.7 – 5.99 means pre-diabetes (be careful level); while less than 5.7 means normal.

The second is the fasting plasma glucose test. If your test result is consistently 126 mg/dl or higher, you are diabetic; between 100 and 125.99 means pre-diabetes; while less than 100 means normal.

The third is the oral glucose tolerance test in which 200 mg/dl and above means diabetes; between 140 and 199.9 means pre-diabetes; and less than 140 means normal.

You should approach your doctor today to order one or more of these tests for you. It is also advisable to have the tests done more than once and in more than one lab, to be sure.

It has been argued that the non-communicable diseases discussed above have always been with us and that the perceived frequency of their occurrence is due to population increases, advances in medical diagnosis, and improvements in reporting technologies. Medical records in advanced countries, where these diseases have been tracked for a very long time, indicate exponential increase in their occurrence, especially in the last few decades. Many anthropologists, especially evolutionary biologists, also agree that sudden death is on the increase due to the prevalence of these diseases.

For example, in The Story of the Human Body, which I reviewed in The PUNCH, (November 19, 2013), Daniel Lieberman submitted that our Stone Age (hunter-gatherer) ancestors did not show evidence of these diseases. The evidence we do have is that our evolutionary path did not prepare our bodies for the consumption of refined sugar, saturated fat, and excess salt in foods. Nor were our bodies adapted for the pathogen-free environment; sedentary lifestyle; and the stressful social conditions we have developed and now taken for granted.

Be that as it may, the important thing is to ensure that you avoid being a victim of sudden death, by taking necessary precautions, beginning from today.










Source: Punch

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