why are we dying young in Nigeria

 Today – Sunday, 7th April 2013 is World Health Day.

World Health Day is celebrated every year on April 7, to mark the anniversary of the founding of World Health Organisation (WHO) in 1948.

Each year a theme is selected for World Health Day that highlights a priority area of public health concern in the world.

The theme for 2013 is HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE or HYPER TENSION.

Almost everyone knows someone who has experienced a mild heart attack or a severe stroke.

A few years ago, stroke used to be leading cause of ‘brief illness’ among old people 65 years and above. (Remember the obituary adverts?.. “With gratitude to God for a life well spent…he died after a brief illness”?).

Sadly, today we are hearing shocking but growing cases of young professionals and students suffering from stroke at the age of 35. There are now so many obituaries starting with “Gone too soon”. Even now, the WHO puts the life expectancy of the typical Nigerian male at 47years.

This is disastrous as it means that more Nigerians are dying in their prime and most productive years. But even more is that since most Nigerian men marry in their early-thirty’s (many of them 35+ years), it means that by 47 years, most of the deceased have children just under teenage years when those children need the departed parent for guidance and mentorship on their most critical life decisions.

And one of the leading killers of our nation’s young aspiring and emerging leaders is high blood pressure or hypertension.

Most people say, with such a collapse of our social order, governance, security and infrastructure, there is so much tension (hyper-tension) naturally in the system.

All you need to do is arrive at our international airport from a business or vacation trip abroad (even from Ghana right beside us here) and you will understand what I mean.

It seems like everything and everyone (from heat, non-functioning air-conditioners & broken-down escalators, delayed baggage to immigration, baggage handlers, customs, touts, taxi drivers, policemen) is colluding and working together in perfect harmony to frustrate you and put you under pressure (aka tension).

The multiple potholes on our roads and the multitude of illiterate drivers (especially many bus/taxi drivers and most okada riders) who can’t read a road sign and have never been proper driving/riding school, makes driving in Nigeria similar to a video game, dodging surprise attackers and minefields. Senseless traffic adds to this stress.

And if you read the newspapers and watch NTA and other local TV channels enough, you must be struggling to overcome depression daily.

In schools, barely-informed lecturers collude with PHCN to make learning and studying a herculean task, even if you had an interest. The thought of struggling through school to enter into the pool of unemployable graduates must be stress-inducing without a doubt.

So clearly, poverty will push the poor to the valley of death of hypertension/stroke, but interestingly, “POVERTY STRESS” now also brings the rich into the same neighbourhood of high blood pressure.

Poverty stress is the ‘disease’ of the rich, caught by trying to take care of the multitude of needs of the many poor people into their ecosystem (family, work, friends, old colleagues, neighbours, church members etc.)

I have always believed that “In the abundance of an impoverished lot, the privileged few are an endangered species”.

Long and short, our operating environment naturally promotes the occurrence of this highly-effective serial killer called High blood pressure also known as Hypertension.

No wonder the WHO puts the estimated life expectancy of a typical Nigerian male at 47 years old. The real problem is that most Nigerian men get married in the early-mid 30’s (mostly about 35 years). This means that by a 47-year old dead man will leave behind a young widow (in her late 30’s) and a few children mostly under the age of 12years – which is when every child needs his/her father the most for guidance and mentorship on the most critical decisions in life.

Most 47 year old late-employees are not eligible for gratuity or pension and most business founded by a 47 year old man can rarely survive the death of its founder. So no serious financial support for the young grieving and beraved family of an average Nigerian who dies at our expected life span of 47 years.

Do you see how serious this challenge is? Can it be reversed or solved? W.H.O. says YES!!!!! High blood pressure in our physical body is both preventable and treatable.

In some developed countries, prevention and treatment of the condition, together with other cardiovascular risk factors, has brought about a reduction in deaths from heart disease, heart attack, stroke and blindness.

The most important information I want to leave you with tonight is that the RISK of developing high blood pressure CAN be reduced by:

– reducing salt intake;
– eating a balanced diet;
– avoiding harmful use of alcohol;
– taking regular physical activity;
– maintaining a healthy body weight;
– avoiding tobacco use.

Q: Why should you care to invest the time and effort in your maintaining your health?

A: Simple. Because Nigeria needs you alive and strong to deliver our future of a most desirable society.

Plus, an untimely death (especially the  preventable one) is a huge waste of all the suffering you have endured this fall and all the investments you and your parents have put into your life.
Whether you like it or not, you MUST deliver returns oooo!

The physical and emotional losses as well as the financial cost of a burial (due to hypertension) is avoidable. The burden of raising the young children whose parents have passed on at such a tender age is regrettable yet avoidable according to the WHO.

My father – Professor Olayiwola Durotoye – died at 42 years ‘young’. In a few weeks (May 12, 2013), I will also be 42 years. My first son is 11 years old. My 3rd (and last) son is just about to turn 8years.
I was my father’s third (and last) child but I was also just 11 years old when my father died. So everything I have written here is from personal experience of pain, confusion and loneliness of a young boy growing up without his father.

There are many causes of death that we may not be able to avoid…but hypertension is an avoidable one. So, let’s do all we can to avoid hypertension and high blood pressure.

Once again, some of the things you should start right away include:
– reducing salt intake;
– eating a balanced diet;
– avoiding harmful use of alcohol;
– taking regular exercise & physical activity;
– maintaining a healthy body weight;
– avoiding tobacco use.

I need you to be alive and well to build Nigeria into a most desirable nation by Dec 31, 2025.

Promise me that you will do all you can to stay healthy till then.

You can reduce the chances of a high blood pressure. Actually, you MUST!

God bless you.
FD

About cknaija

cknaija@twitter.com
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