Following the reported deaths of some football fans while watching the semi-final match between Nigeria and South Africa at the ongoing 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), the Nigerian Cardiac Society (NCS) has raised concern over cardiovascular health of Nigerians.
While the society in an official statement Friday could not confirm the exact cause of the deaths, it highlighted the risk factors prevalent among Nigerians that could trigger sudden death.
The society issued the warning ahead of the final match between Nigeria and the host nation, Cote d’Ivoire, which is scheduled for Sunday.
NCS statement was signed by Augustine Odili, Chizindu Alikor and Adeseye Akintunde, all professors, who are the society’s President, Secretary-General, and Publicity Secretary, respectively.
Probable causes of sudden death
According to NCS, the causes of sudden death include complications of hypertension, heart attack, stroke, heart failure, cardiomyopathies, valvular disorders, pulmonary thromboembolism, aortic aneurysms, status epilepticus, and inherited arrhythmogenic channelopathies.
It noted that about 50 per cent of all deaths from heart diseases are sudden regardless of the aetiology, that is, the causes or set of causes.
The society added that 89 per cent of all sudden cardiac deaths occur outside the hospital and that less than 40 per cent are witnessed.
Nigerian businessman, Osondu Nwoye, who was based in Cote d’Ivoire; former lawmaker Cairo Ojougboh; and the Kwara State University Deputy Bursar, Ayuba Abdullahi are among those who lost their lives while watching the intense semi-finals between Nigeria’s Super Eagles and Bafana Bafana of South Africa.
Risk factors for heart disease
NCS noted that the most common risk factors for heart disease are related to lifestyle such as “lack of physical exercise, smoking tobacco, consuming alcohol, eating unhealthy diets rich in salt and saturated fats, and low in fresh fruits and vegetables.”
It added that other risk factors include high blood pressure (hypertension), high blood lipids/cholesterol (dyslipidaemia), overweight and obesity, and diabetes mellitus.
“Hypertension is the most common risk factor for heart disease and stroke in Nigeria. Sadly, three out of every 10 adult Nigerians have high blood pressure, many of whom are unaware of their hypertensive status,” NCS stated.
“Effective blood pressure control is a major panacea for reducing the cardiovascular risk of affected people.”
NCS also noted that 7 per cent of hypertensive subjects have been shown to achieve effective blood pressure control in Nigeria and other sub-Saharan African countries.
Prevention of sudden death
Several reports have documented a high prevalence of cardiovascular risk factors including obesity, metabolic syndrome, drug abuse, alcohol intake, and physical inactivity among Nigerians.
According to NCS, many of these cardiovascular risk factors are without symptoms and signs.
Therefore, it recommended screening as the only effective mechanism for early identification and appropriate control and prevention of sudden death among the populace.
“The untimely deaths of these Nigerians are a stark reminder that we must be vigilant about our cardiovascular health. Sports and other emotional events can trigger arrhythmias, heart attacks, and strokes in those with underlying heart conditions,” it added.
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