Every normal human being loves life — and rightly so. Many of us will do all that is necessary to keep alive by eating good food, living in clean environment, observing good hygiene habit and the like.
Yet, many people are ignorant of certain causes of death which, when known and avoided, will not only save you from untimely death but also make living worthwhile for you.
Experts say knowing these causes of death can make the difference between staying alive in sound health and experiencing morbidity even while alive.
What are some of these top causes of death? Please, read on.
Ischaemic heart disease
This is a disease that is characterised by reduced blood supply to the heart, and scientists say it is the most common cause of death in most western countries.
Physicians say most ischaemic heart disease is caused by atherosclerosis — a condition in which an artery wall thickens as a result of the accumulation of fatty materials such as cholesterol and triglyceride.
What is your risk of atherosclerosis? According to a cardiologist with the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Idi-Araba, Dr. Jane Ajuluchukwu, the risk factors include hypertension, unhealthy blood cholesterol level, lack of physical activity, age, family history of early heart disease, sleep apnea, alcohol, and stress.
Ajuluchukwu warns that being hypertensive and being a smoker are two factors that can increase your risk for atherosclerosis seven times!
According to the World Health Organisation, 15 million people suffer stroke worldwide each year. Of these, five million die and another five million are permanently disabled.
Physicians warn that high blood pressure contributes to more than 12.7 million strokes worldwide.
Family physician, Dr. Bimpe Arogundade, explains how strokes happen. She says, “A stroke is caused by the interruption of the blood supply to the brain, usually because a blood vessel bursts or is blocked by a clot. This cuts off the supply of oxygen and nutrients, causing damage to the brain tissue.”
To save yourself from death through stroke, know the most common symptom of a stroke, which experts say include sudden weakness or numbness of the face, arm or leg, most often on one side of the body.
Other symptoms include confusion, difficulty speaking or understanding speech; difficulty seeing with one or both eyes; difficulty walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination; severe headache with no known cause; fainting or unconsciousness.
Physicians say the effects of a stroke depend on which part of the brain is injured and how severely it is affected. “A very severe stroke can cause sudden death,” Arogundade warns.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
This refers to a group of lung diseases that block airflow and make breathing difficult. An epidemiologist, Mr. Segilola Araoye, describes emphysema and chronic bronchitis as the two most common conditions that make up COPD.
Arogundade notes that chronic bronchitis is an inflammation of the lining of the bronchial tubes, which carry air to and from the lungs.
“Emphysema occurs when the air sacs (alveoli) at the end of the smallest air passages (bronchioles) in the lungs are gradually destroyed. Damage to the lungs from COPD can’t be reversed, though treatment can help control symptoms and minimise further damage,” she explains.
Sad to say, physicians say, symptoms of COPD often don’t appear until significant lung damage has occurred, and they usually worsen over time.
Arogundade warns, “For chronic bronchitis, the main symptom is a cough that you have at least three months a year for two consecutive years. Other signs and symptoms are shortness of breath — especially during physical activities; wheezing, chest tightness, having to clear your throat first thing in the morning due to excess mucus in your lungs, a chronic cough that produces sputum that may be clear, white, yellow or greenish; blueness of the lips or fingernail beds (cyanosis), frequent respiratory infections, lack of energy, and unintended weight loss (in later stages) of the disease.”
Physicians are unanimous that the causes of COPD are mainly avoidable, and they include smoking, and exposure to fumes from burning fuel for cooking or heating in poorly ventilated homes.
Along with trachea and bronchus cancers, experts say lung cancers accounted for 1.5 million (2.7 per cent) deaths in 2011 alone — up from 1.2 million (2.2 per cent) deaths in 2000.
The online portal, medicalnewstoday.com, explains that lung cancer happens as a result of uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells that start off in one or both lungs, usually in the cells that line the air passages.
“The abnormal cells do not develop into healthy lung tissue; rather, they divide rapidly and form tumours. As tumours become larger and more numerous, they undermine the lung’s ability to provide the bloodstream with oxygen,” the portal says.
Statistics reveal that this cancer alone is responsible for 1,370,000 deaths on an annual basis globally.
Consultant Oncologist/Head of Radiology Unit at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Idi-Araba, Dr. Remi Ajekigbe, warns that lung cancer symptoms may take years before appearing, usually after the disease is already in an advanced stage.
He says many symptoms of the disease affect the chest and air passages and they include persistent or intense coughing, pain in the chest, shoulder, or back due to coughing; changes in the colour of the mucus that is coughed up from the lower airways; difficulty breathing and swallowing, hoarseness of the voice, harsh sounds while breathing (stridor), chronic bronchitis or pneumonia, and coughing up blood, or seeing blood in the sputum.
Ajekigbe notes further that as lung cancer cells spread and use more of the body’s energy, it is possible to present symptoms that may also be associated with many other ailments such as fever, fatigue, unexplained weight loss, pain in the joints or bones, problems with brain function and memory, swelling in the neck or face, general weakness, bleeding and blood clots.
The urologist enthuses that lung cancer is one of the preventable cancers and that choosing not to smoke or drink alcohol significantly lowers the risk of lung cancer and those of several other cancers such as cancers of the throat, mouth, and liver.
“Even if you are currently smoking, quitting can still greatly reduce your chances of getting cancer. That’s why the most important preventive measure you can take to avoid lung cancer is to quit smoking,” Ajekigbe counsels.
Physicians say quitting smoking will also reduce your risk of several other types of cancers, including cancers of the oesophagus, pancreas, larynx, and bladder.
Again, experts say, quitting smoking also fosters additional benefits such as lower blood pressure, enhanced blood circulation, and increased lung capacity.
Culled from Punch