Read-to-Live Series: Untold Story of how Stroke & Heart Attack kills Naija Big Men

Late Prince Abubakar Audu, said to have suffered heart attack and stroke while waiting results of an election

In
scientific parlance, sections like this are expected to be full of hard data,
such as statistics of incidence of stroke, heart attack and associated
mortality, nationally and for the different segments of the population.  While admittedly reliable statistics of that
nature are not so readily available in this country, perhaps to most of the
readers of this work, mere figures and statistics cannot sufficiently convey
the reality and seriousness of the problem of stroke and heart attack among
Nigerians.


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The recall of individual victims that we knew or have heard about
would probably make this point clearer.On my part, I can immediately recall countless number of people who have
recently fallen victim to these two notable vicious killers in Nigeria today (Ex-Bayelsa
State Governor, Chief DSP Alamieyeseigha is one big casualty who died recently).

In
addition to the Apostle and the ex-civil servant from my clan who recently died
from stroke and heart attack respectively, my best friend, who together as
youths we struggled up the academic ladder, is currently maimed by severe
hypertension. At the height of his outstanding academic and career
achievements, he is now virtually vegetating in his mid-fifties.  The tragedies of these three individuals are
the immediate reasons for this book.


The
death and disabilities of these close friends and associates of mine have been
particularly painful to me because they were easily preventable, even under the
current level of health and medical condition in Nigeria. I can personally
recall a large number of other individuals who I knew very well and who have
died or who have been maimed in similar circumstances in recent years. They
were in every sector of the economy, including medical doctors, lawyers,
politicians, business people and even otherwise ordinary folks who in many
cases became affluent.

“Often, a litany of
the bad things that big men do which are claimed to be responsible for the
deaths follow the comments about such sudden deaths, such as taking bribes,
taking other people’s women or making bad medicines to hurt each other (Juju)”

As
a reader, you will certainly recall many individuals of the caliber we are
discussing, who recently died suddenly or have been maimed by confirmed or
suspected stroke or heart attack. Some may be relatives, friends, colleagues,
acquaintances, or they had similar relationship with people you know. Or they
were so popular that even though you did not know them in life, you could not
miss their death. Sudden death among Nigerians is approaching the level of an
endemic. The suddenness of the death of the victims tends to fuel the news and
rumors. It is not uncommon to over hear some Nigerians making familiar comments
like; These big men die like
chicken these days because of the bad things they do”
or that “They died from big man disease”.

They
are right about the later because the factors primarily associated with stroke
and heart attacks are strongly linked to affluence. Often, a litany of the bad
things that big men do which are claimed to be responsible for the deaths
follow the comments about such sudden deaths, such as taking bribes, taking
other people’s women or making bad medicines to hurt each other (Juju)

You
may be sure in your mind that you do not engage in whatever “bad things” the
commentators may be talking about, but since the victims have been close to you
or have been like you in many ways, you invariably experience a nagging fear of
insecurity, the anxiety that it could be you next time. You probably have very
good reasons to be worried because any of us could be equally at risk of the
so-called “big man disease” and it can be the turn of any one of us to die
suddenly any day. It may not be for the reasons that the gossipers/commentators
usually adduce. So, like many other affluent Nigerians, you have good reasons
to be worried about this “big man disease”, about which most
people know or appear to know very little about.
So, what is Big Man’s
Disease?
What
exactly are these “Big man diseases” that kill or main so suddenly? What
chances does anyone have against them?
The
so-called big man diseases are high blood pressure (Also known as
Hypertension), stroke and heart attack. High blood pressure and stroke can
affect any one, big man or not. As will be observed later in the discussion of
the causes of hypertension, the normal process of aging and the worries of
everyday living are important factors associated with the development of
hypertension. Age and the stress of everyday life therefore predispose both the
rich and the poor to high blood pressure and probably stroke. Living the
“Nigerian Good Life” in some ways imposes additional risk for those who are
naturally at risk of developing high blood pressure as well as those who are
otherwise not at risk. The case of heart attack is virtually the same as for
stroke.

Though
stroke and heart attack may not cause as many deaths and disabilities as road
traffic accidents for which Nigerian holds the dubious distinction of being
number one worldwide, the psychological impact of these diseases far exceeds
that of road traffic accidents and other conditions that kill a lot more
Nigerians. It is possible that the mishap of a stroke or heart attack and
associated complications may spread more widely, especially when they affect an
affluent or a popular person; this is probably because these diseases are
currently surrounded by many unknowns in the society. Fortunately, unlike road
traffic accidents, the condition that results in the occurrence of high blood
pressure, stroke and heart attacks are more within the control of the
individual, once the person understands what is involved and knows what to do.
Awareness at individual and national levels is therefore the first step in
addressing these problems. The purpose of this book therefore is to start that
process of awareness. The first step is to briefly examine the nature of these
diseases that now cause so much fear and feeling of insecurity among Nigerians.

From the Book; “Early and Sudden Death; the Price of Affluence among
Nigerians”

(Read “How to develop
HBP, Stroke & Heart Attack” tomorrow on Asabeafrika)