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Rising rate of sudden death worries medical experts



Medical negligence, malpractice inflate the rate of untimely deaths

– Warn against threats from drug abuse, lifestyle, etc

Medical experts have raised concerns over the rising rate of sudden death in Nigeria, especially among young people. Recently, several cases of unexpected death in under-40s have been reported. In most cases, the deceased wasn’t sick nor involved in an accident.

Based on studies, medical experts have attributed the leading cause of sudden death to cardiovascular diseases (high blood pressure, cardiac arrest, stroke, Arrhythmia, and congenital heart disease). Other risk factors include excessive consumption of alcohol, smoking, tobacco use, substance abuse, poor diet, and mental health issues, amongst others.

According to a report titled ‘Central Nervous System Causes of Sudden Unexpected Death: A Comprehensive Review, cardiovascular disease accounts for 73% of sudden deaths globally.

Following the death of four Nigerians, who lost their lives while watching the football match between Nigeria’s Super Eagles and South Africa’s Bafana Bafana held in Cote D’Ivoire on February 7th, 2024, the Nigerian Cardiac Society urged Nigerians to prioritize their cardiovascular health.

“The Nigerian Cardiac Society notes with utmost concern the several reported cases of sudden deaths among Nigerians both at home and abroad directly or indirectly linked with the surge of emotions associated with the Nigeria-South Africa match during the ongoing African Cup of Nations competition holding in Cote D’Ivoire. The reported deaths of at least four individuals occurring during the match leaves much to be desired on the cardiovascular health of Nigerians,” the society said.

In an interview with our correspondent, Dr. Ayodeji Bamidele Okeya, analyzed the factors contributing to sudden deaths in Nigeria. He stated that tobacco use, smoking, excessive consumption of alcohol, and any substance abuse were risk factors contributing to sudden death among youths.

“Tobacco use, smoking, and heavy consumption of alcohol contribute more to sudden deaths. It is more about lifestyle. We have more people in that age range, who smoke and drink. Smoking contributes to cancer. In the past, we used to have more cases of cancer in old people but now we see some cases in young adults.

“Some of them have liver cancer from heavy drinking and lung cancer due to excessive smoking. We have more people coming down with mental health issues from multiple substance abuse. Alcohol and substance abuse increase the rate of road traffic accidents among the ‘Okada’ riders, tricycle drivers, which in turn increases the mortality rate among young people,”

He decried the rising cases of stroke and hypertension among young people, stating that poor diet, lifestyle, and lack of knowledge about family history are other factors contributing to the rate of sudden deaths in young people.

“Another point is that young people tend to be coming down with a stroke, which is a result of high blood pressure, which used to be among old people. Younger people are now coming down with stroke at 35 and it wasn’t like this before. We see cases of cancer in young people, who have never smoked or consumed alcohol, we can attribute this to diet. Diet could also contribute to it or lifestyle generally.

People don’t know their family history. This is also one of the leading causes of death in young people. People need to learn about their family history. When we say something is hereditary, if your uncle/aunt had an ailment and your parents don’t have it, this doesn’t mean that the ailment doesn’t run in the family. Knowing your family history isn’t just about your parents. It’s important to know the ailment that runs in one’s family, it helps the person to know what to prevent,” he said.

“Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy is something that we place special interest in, and when a doctor meets patients for the first time, you will want to ask if there is any history of sudden cardiac death in the family. Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy is also a genetic disorder. if there is any case of sudden cardiac death in the family, you will want to watch out for that. It is more hereditary. If there is a case like this in the family, we try to educate them. At that point, you try to investigate that person of cardiac issues, so the person doesn’t die from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy,” he stated.

On the consumption of energy drinks leading to a heart attack/sudden death, especially during physical activity, such sex, Okeya said the high level of caffeine and sugar in an energy drink could trigger a health condition an individual was already predisposed to and could worsen a health condition.

“Energy drink contains caffeine and a high level of sugar. But why is anyone consuming energy drinks in the first place? We have several fake products out there. It’s possible that caffeine and sugar can worsen the health condition the person was already predisposed to. It is just like when someone is diabetic, taking a lot of caffeine will worsen the diabetes. The energy drink may not directly kill the person but it can trigger what was existing in the body of that particular individual,”

On prevention of sudden death, he emphasized the importance of regular check-ups, lifestyle modification, and public awareness.


“Doctors too slump and die, footballers also slump and die while playing football. The fact that someone is walking up and down every day and they are not showing any symptoms doesn’t mean they are healthy. What people should advocate for is regular checkups. Things to check regularly are things that can cause an individual to just suddenly slump and die. We need to check the heart, brain, and cardiovascular systems. A regular checkup could be every six months or yearly. Check your BP, blood sugar, and pulse rate. This is why, whether you come down with malaria or not, we always want to check some basic things, we call it baseline medication.

“The basic thing is lifestyle changes. People should quit smoking and drinking. This can also help reduce the rate of road accidents and reduce the number of deaths that we have. Once you are diagnosed with any disease, take it seriously and never miss your clinic appointment. Most of the deaths in Nigeria are preventable. Public awareness is also very important. Also, we can’t push away the level of poverty, which is making it difficult for people to access quality healthcare. Regular check-ups, knowing your health status, knowing your family history, lifestyle modification, and public awareness will definitely help in reducing sudden deaths,” he advised.

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