Save yourself from sudden death

Cardiac arrest demonstration
The news of the demise of Nigerian female musician, 30-year-old Susan Harvey (Goldie), is no longer new. What is new, however, is the suddenness, which has left many people wondering what might have led to her death.
What more, being a public figure, Goldie lived virtually all her life before the camera. She appeared healthy enough and her fans had no inkling that she ever had any health issue.
Many reasons — albeit unofficial — has been adduced for her death. For one, an artiste friend of hers, Denrele Edun, who reportedly rushed her to the hospital when she collapsed suddenly upon arrival from the United States where she had attended the Grammy Awards, said she died of pneumonia.
The doctors claimed that she died before arrival at the Reddington Hospital, Victoria Island, Lagos and therefore could not volunteer the cause of death. While there has also been a reference to blood clot, an unidentified source said she died of drug overdose, which her British widower, Andrew, has denied.
Whatever was the cause of Goldie’s death, one thing is certain: she died suddenly.
According to Consultant Cardiologist in private practice in Lagos, Dr. Victor Adeleke, Sudden Adult Death Syndrome or Sudden Death Syndrome is an umbrella term used for the many different causes of cardiac arrest in young people from their teens to early 30s.
He explains that inheritance may be a factor, depending on the underlying syndrome, while some conditions are due to genetic disorders and some are acquired as a result of exposure to certain medications.
Adeleke says usually, many of those who die would have been previously healthy and are therefore not likely to have had electrocardiogram (ECG) to check their heart. “As a result, it is often difficult to identify the cause of death,” he adds.
Another physician, Andrew Grace, of Papworth Hospital, in Cambridge, United Kingdom, explains that cardiac arrhythmias are a common cause of SADS or SDS. He says, “One in particular, Long QT Syndrome, may be genetic in origin.
He explains, “LQTS is a rare inborn heart condition in which delayed repolarisation of the heart following a heartbeat increases the risk of episodes of irregular heartbeats. These episodes may lead to palpitations, fainting and sudden death due to ventricular fibrillation. Episodes may be provoked by various stimuli, depending on the subtype of the condition.”
Grace laments that the disturbing thing about SADS is that many victims are happy, active young people who have no symptoms whatsoever before they die. He says SADS can happen anywhere at any time and that it can affect people from all age groups, both adults and children.
Again, a non-governmental organisation, Cardiac Risk in the Young, says the most common causes of unexpected sudden cardiac death in the young (aged 35 and under) include thickening or abnormal structure of the heart muscle and irregularities of the electrical impulses that upset the natural rhythm of the heart.
CRY says the deaths are usually non-traumatic, non-violent, unexpected occurrences resulting from cardiac arrest within as little as six hours of previously witnessed normal health
Worse still, physicians say, sometimes, there are no warning signs but in other cases, people can experience dizziness or fainting spells.
“There may also be sudden loss of consciousness; and death often occurs during physical exercise or emotional upset,” they say.
Experts say SADS is now becoming widely recognised as a condition, and that there’s the need for more research into why and how it happens.
They also say there is a simple way to diagnose most of the abnormalities that can lead to sudden death. “This is by having an ECG test,” they advise.
Adeleke says an ECG is used to measure the rate and regularity of heartbeats, for diagnosis of heart abnormalities, as well as the size and position of the chambers. “It reveals the presence of any damage to the heart, and the effects of drugs or devices used to regulate the heart.”
He says the test is quick, painless and affordable; and that, for extra clarity, an echocardiogram (ultrasound scan of the heart) can be taken if the doctor deems it necessary.
Again, he says, it is advisable for family members to undergo ECG screening if there have been any young person’s sudden death in the family, or if a young family member is suffering from symptoms of chest pain that may be exercise-related, breathlessness, palpitations, dizziness or fainting.
Tips to beat sudden death
•Quit smoking.
•Improve cholesterol levels.
•Control high blood pressure.
•Get active and do exercises.
•Eat right.
•Achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
•Manage stress and anger.
•Control diabetes.

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