The rate at which Nigerians are dropping dead these days is becoming very frightening, alarming and raising great concern among health experts.
Though, deaths attributable to cardiac are not new in Nigeria, but are now more rampant. Cardiologists have expressed worry that cardiac related deaths among Nigerians may be more common than previously thought.
Cardiac arrest has become noticeable cause of medical concern, whereby people who appear healthy, suddenly slump and die. In this interview with Dr. Folorunsho Oluwarotimi, a cardiologist consultant with Federal Medical Centre, FMC, Owo with our reporter, MARIA FAMAKINWA, he speaks on cardiac arrest, causes, prevention and solutions.
What is cardiac arrest? Cardiac arrest is the sudden cessation of cardiac function. It is a common phenomenon in our society today. Hypertension is the commonest cause.
What are the causes of cardiac arrest?
Hypertension, cardiomyopathy which is the enlargement of the heart. It is the primary disease of the heart which can be inherited. It can be of different types which includes dilated cardiomyopathy, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and restive cardiomyopathy. 80 per cent of it runs in the family while the remaining 20 per cent is due to changes in pregnancy. We also have alcoholic cardiomyopathy and some other infiltrative diseases that are rare. Any problem that can affect the heart can lead to cardiac arrest.
The one that is common in our society is romantic heart disease. It is an infection that occur when one is young, between ages 5-15, it will leave a mark on the heart and manifest later when the person is of age. We also have ischemic heart disease which have to do with the gradual damage of heart muscle due to progressive and significant reduction of blood supply to the heart muscle.
Other causes include tuberculosis infection which lead to constrictive pericarditis. Congenital heart disease also cause heart failure, this occur when a pregnant woman takes drugs she ought not to have taken. We also have abnormal rhythm of the heart which can be developed before heart failure.
All these will first develop to heart failure and if not well detected and treated, can lead to cardiac arrest.
What are the symptoms of cardiac arrest?
Though, it can occur without symptoms, but there are some symptoms that patients may experience that will point to an underline heart problem like palpitation, severe chest pain, easy fatigability i.e getting easily tired, breathlessness on exertion and bilateral leg swollen.
How does what we eat or drink contribute to cardiac arrest?
Diet play a very significant role in our health. There is a lot of food laden with saturated fats like consuming internal cow organs (saki, abodi, edo among others) Our local palm oil especially the solidify ones is dangerous. The best one is free oil (ogere) Also, consuming excess margarine is dangerous for anyone above 40 years. It is only good for children because they have higher metabolic rate.
Alcohol and excessive salt also causes damage to the heart. Sedentary life style equally affect the heart. These days, some people can sit down for hours watching television instead of taking some minutes to move around and later go back to what they are doing.
What are the solutions?
Nigerians need to be educated in this regard. Disease, ignorance and poverty are tripod stand causing a lot of problem in this country. Aside education, Nigerians have not imbibe the habit of regular medical check-up. People only visit the hospital when they have health issues which most times make the situation irredeemable.
How can one prevent cardiac arrest?
To prevent cardiac arrest, we should cultivate the habit eating a healthy diet, avoid foods that are oily, high in cholesterol and sugar. Exercise daily for at least 15-20 minutes. Reduce your stress level and avoid alcoholic drinks. Smoking cigarettes and taking alcoholic drinks can increase the size of the heart muscle. This habit also cause high blood pressure. An enlarged heart in conjunction with high blood pressure increases the risk of an individual having cardiac arrest.
How much does the treatment cost?
I can not give exact answer because it depends on the cause.
How can government assist cardiac patients?
Government can assist cardiac patients by equipping our hospitals with necessary tools to treat cardiac issue. Equipment to test, detect and treat early cases of cardiac arrest are lacking in most hospitals. The few hospitals with equipment are not affordable for common man. Unlike foreign countries with standard equipment, when a person slump, the government there have taught them what to do in case of emergency to resuscitate the person before calling for available ambulance to convey the person to the hospital. Government can also help by providing community service and retraining of health workers.
How can a patient who collapse suddenly be resuscitated?
You will first lie the patient on a flat surface, check the airway and the pause, if it is cardiac arrest, there will be no pulse. Immediately you notice that there is no pause, you start cardiac compression by pressing up the chest. When there is available automobile external defibrillator, you attach it to the patient chest to defibrillate it and immediately call for ambulance to take the person to the hospital.
What is your advice to the people?
People should cultivate the habit of routine and regular medical check up. Exercise regularly, reduce intake of red meat and stop alcoholic drinks because no amount of it is safe.