Checkmating Sudden Death Syndrome – What the Expert Says…

No Comments » July 27th, 2008 posted by // Categories: Health


Dr Olayiwola Ajileye writes from Birmingham, United Kingdom


Death is an inevitable and non-negotiable end to every mortal, but the arrival of death need not be sudden and unexplained and the incidence of mortality can be controlled and managed to the bearest minimum by individual and population methods. In recent times, the spate of sudden death amongst many Nigerians, nay amongst Africans,  particularly notable public figures and celebrities has called for a collective attention on this matter with a view to advising Africans about the imperative of regular, periodic health screening or health MOT to certify individual life worthiness.

Sudden death by definition is usually non-traumatic, non-violent, unexpected occurrences in individuals previously witnessed to be enjoying apparent normal health status. It is often difficult to consider that someone who is apparently young, agile, productive and fit may be at risk. It is not uncommon for majority of Nigerians to apply superstitious attributions to these tragic events.


Nigeria has recently mourned the losses of a number of first class citizens of varying age groups, Pa Abraham Adesanya, Prof Jadesola Akande, CP Haz Iwendi to name but few. We have at sometime in our national life mourned the sudden loss of some of our movie stars, Political office holders, Senators, albeit controversial, it was reported that MKO Abiola died in detention suddenly of an enlarged heart found at post-mortem etc

The agenda here is not to make sundry diagnosis of the causes of death of these individuals but to raise due awareness to the suddenness of these losses and advocate for the need to put our health first and foremost. Loss of life often results in total loss to the individual concerned and there are colossal collateral loss to families and friends and indeed psychological impact on the national frame of mind. In a recent interview THIS DAY NEWSPAPER and THE NEWS MAGAZINE; I discussed the subject of Sudden of Death as elaborated below:

(1) You talked so much about the need for Nigerians to present themselves for regular medical check-up. What are the most common debilitating diseases that could lead to sudden death?

From orthodox medical perspectives, commonest causes of sudden deaths are existing, undiagnosed or misdiagnosed heart problems. It could be degenerative, inherited or congenital. It could be as a result of problems arising from the heart functions e.g. irregularities of the electrical impulses that upset the natural rhythm of the heart anatomy or blood supply. In clinical terms, I am talking about ischeamic heart disease or coronary heart disease (CHD), arrthymias, and cardiomyopathies, an inherited form of heart muscle disorder.  If this is undiagnosed, a number of predisposing illnesses such as High blood pressure (Hypertension), prolonged or acute stress, high blood level of cholesterol and high blood sugar may precipitate a sudden death syndrome.


It is also important to mention that abuse of unlicensed medications, abuse of therapeutic agents without recourse to medical or pharmacist advice can potentially lead to dangerous drug interactions with lethal consequences. Particularly in people who are unaware of any pre-existing medical problems.


Thrombo-embolic episodes (blockade of blood vessels) in the heart, lungs and certain critical parts of the brain can precipitate a sudden death scenario. Generally, people talk about heart attacks, severe sudden chest pain, and stroke occurring in the respiratory and cardiac centres in the brain tissue.

Blood vessels disease in very critical areas of the body can lead to sudden death e.g. intracranial aneurysm or disease of the large blood vessel with sudden rupture.

Inherited metabolic problems may lead to sudden death but these are common amongst younger age groups.

(2) What are the symptoms of these diseases?

Mostly, these diseases are symptomless or the warning symptoms are often ignored. For example, headaches, chest discomfort/pain, breathing problems, fainting attacks, dizziness, tiredness, fatigue, blurring of vision and convulsion. The fact that majority of this diseases are asymptomatic, but detectable by periodic comprehensive health screening, makes them preventable. Somebody with an inherited heart problem may lead an apparently active, normal and symptom free life, until such time that sudden death occurs. Early diagnosis of these diseases is very important as prompt treatment increases the likelihood of full recovery and certainly prevents worsening of health.


(3) What are some of the predisposing factors?

There are many predisposing factors to these diseases. Smoking, high blood pressure, high fat food, diabetes mellitus, lack of physical active exercises, obesity, particularly abdominal obesity, stress and exhaustion can precipitate episode of sudden death in a vulnerable person.


(4) What are the lifestyles/habits that could aid the diseases?

Certainly, unconcern attitude to ones own health matters, lack of proper self-vigilance and unresponsive attitude to subtle warning signs can be detrimental. Majority of Africans and particularly Nigerians are highly driven people, as a result paying poor attention to need for periodic health screening, medical check ups can proof very fatal.


Our diet is by nature loaded with high carbohydrates and unhealthy fat, conscious dietary vigilance, can go a long way. Poor eating habit, eating very heavy meals late at night reduces the body metabolic rate and promotes accumulation of food in fatty form.


Smoking certainly predispose to high blood pressure and blood vessels disease, particularly in-predisposed individual. Strong family history of certain health problems or sudden death should not be dismissed or ignored; Nigerians should attempt to be aware of their family predisposition to certain health problem and seek to investigate cause of sudden death in any family member. These may go a long way in pointing an individual to whether they need to undergo preventative measures or treatment.


(5) How can the diseases be prevented?

Prevention is better than cure, sudden death is a total loss to any family and it certainly has reverberating psychological and social implications within a family system. The best prevention is periodic health screening and health awareness. Health screening provides an excellent opportunity to detect disease and health issues in the early stages. By recognising specific risk factors and helping to make informed decisions about your own health, it is possible to improve the quality of your life and reduce the risk of developing disease in the future.


Attitudinal re-orientation to the implication of not knowing anything about one owns health status or family predisposition is also necessary. Lifestyle changes can be advised following a health screening exercise and measures to prevent tragic occurrences can be advised. Certainly, if any problem is identified, the risk can be quantified and treatment advised.



Periodic and regular health screening, locally and internationally is one means by which the incidence of sudden mortality can be reduced. Basically, health screening is looking after ones own future and it is indicative of one’s sense of responsibility to your family, nation and the world at large.

Many Africans and particularly Nigerians possess tremendous ability to accumulate so much wealth and resources but they remain very poor in the consciousness and attention they give to their own health. It is a vogue and common trend amongst Nigerians to attend regular financial reviews, portfolio review meetings, and investment seminars and of course we take our cars, generators for regular servicing for optimum performance, but such attitude is not extended to personal health matters unless there is an emergency or obvious morbidity. Given what we know now about sudden death, the need for health screening to maintain good health is very paramount.

Health Screening provides an excellent opportunity to detect disease and health issues in the early stages. By recognising specific risk factors and helping you to make informed decisions about your own health, it is possible to improve the quality of your life and reduce the risk of developing disease in the future. You will also be advised about small changes in your lifestyle that may help reduce the risks associated with certain disease with emphasis on prevention rather than cure.

Valor Health Options Ltd, a Birmingham based organisation can help you organise be-spoke periodic health screening engagements with Private and Independent Health Facilities in the United Kingdom. Our services provide an alternative avenue for individuals within Africa and Nigeria in particular who would rather opt to have their health screenings carried out abroad without any prejudice to the quality of the available skills and resources available locally within their healthcare system.

This organisation is run by a medical professional, Dr Olayiwola Ajileye, with many years experience of medical practice both in Nigeria and UK. Dr Ajileye graduated from the University of Ibadan Medical School and holds a Masters Degree in International Health Management and Policy Development from University of Birmingham, United Kingdom. He also holds a Certificate of Health Insurance Practice from the Chartered Institute of Insurance (CII), London. He is also a Mental Health Specialist in the UK working with the Government National Health Service.

Valor Health Options can help set up personalised consultations with highly experienced medical professionals with a view to offer a wide range of health screens that suit your needs and to give you detailed understanding of your health and lifestyle at a relatively affordable price. Your health screening appointments will include a wide range of clinical examinations, investigations and laboratory tests to provide a detailed review of your body system.

Based on the findings, appropriate lifestyle modification can be recommended together with more specific interventions and follow-up where necessary. Your personal health profile will include tests that are relevant to your risk profile and are based on your gender and age and you will be given a personalised medical report, which is clear and easy to understand.

To discuss further and confidentially on how Valor Health Options can help you arrange for your health screening engagements, we are happy to be contacted by e-mail Individuals wanting to attend Health Screening appointments in the United Kingdom would need to arrange their own Visa and travelling documents, as Valor Health Options Ltd does not provide such services.


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