Are you hypertensive? Are you emotionally attached to football? Do you have an underlying illness? Beware as the Super Eagles of Nigeria, and the Cote d’Ivoire football team slug it out during the African Cup of Nations finals on Sunday.
Cardiologists have advised people with underlying heart diseases and those who are emotionally attached to football to either not get involved or avoid getting overly excited during the game and to take breaks as needed.
The advice came on the heels of the sudden deaths of four Nigerians after watching the Nigeria – South African semi-final match last Wednesday.
The experts say that such groups of people are prone to what they described as heightened emotion that can trigger a heart attack even as they attributed the spate of sudden deaths while watching a soccer match to either a heart attack or a stroke.
In their explanation, the experts noted that such individuals may have a genetic predisposition that may cause the heart to be at high risk when it goes into a sudden emotional surge.
They said such people could have also suffered a stroke because when they are excited emotionally, their blood pressure will increase.
In a chat with Sunday Vanguard, the President of the Nigerian Cardiac Society, NCS, Prof Augustine Odili, explained that there is a possibility that those who died may have had what people call a heart attack which is known to be caused by heightened emotions.
“Again, it is also important to find out how each of them died and at what point the deaths happened. Sometimes, you get some of this information from social media and so we are not quite sure but one or two of them happened during the time the Nigerian player scored a goal and the goal was cancelled, and a penalty was awarded to the South African team and they scored the penalty shootout.
“It is obvious that either of them must have had what I will call heightened emotion, acute triggers of Myocardial infarction. So, the autopsy was not conducted so one may not be surprised if they had Myocardial infarction.
“Then, those who know they have a strong emotional attachment to these events should avoid getting interested in watching football.”
Speaking on the importance of exercise to the heart, Odili said: “People should exercise because, by the time you are exercising, you are making your heart to become exposed to the kind of things that happen in heightened emotion and all that. So that helps the heart to get familiar with all that.
“People should also do constant checks to ensure that their heart is in good condition. Primarily, if you know that you have a heart problem, find a way of avoiding emotional events attached to things like football. If you have a heart problem, ensure you exercise regularly because exercise exposes the heart to some of those triggers and will make the heart familiar with such triggers.”
In his views, a Consultant Cardiologist at the Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospital Complex, OAUTHC, Ile Ife, Osun state, Dr. Olumide Akinyele, common causes of slumping and sudden death in Nigeria include sudden cardiac death and stroke.
Akinyele, who is a member of the European Society of Cardiology, said sudden death is something that occurs all over the world, Nigeria inclusive.
“Sudden cardiac death, which is defined as unexpected death due to a cardiac cause, usually within a short period (one hour) from onset of symptoms (e.g., difficulty with breathing, chest pain, palpitation) to death, in a person with or without known heart disease.
“Common underlying heart diseases with increased risk for sudden cardiac death include coronary artery disease and Myocardial infarction (heart attack from blockage of heart vessels), tachyarrhythmia (abnormal and fast irregular heartbeats), hypertensive heart disease, heart failure, valvular heart disease. Also some inherited heart diseases like hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, long QT syndrome, Brugada syndrome, etc,” he said.
For the non-inherited heart diseases, Akinyele said the common risk factors include hypertension, diabetes mellitus, dyslipidemia, smoking, sedentary lifestyle, and excessive alcohol intake.
“Individuals with these conditions are most at risk because intense emotions during football can easily cause the release of hormones which can eventually lead to sudden cardiac death. Stroke is another disease, which is largely caused by hypertension, the silent killer.
“Immediate steps will include going for a general check-up with your doctor to ascertain the state of one’s health whether you feel well or not. Certain tests will also be done which can easily reveal some of these underlying diseases.
“Check your blood pressure regularly, and use your medications as your doctor prescribes. Adopt healthy lifestyles such as stopping the smoking of cigarettes, engaging in physical activities/exercise as tolerated, e.g., brisk walking, avoiding alcohol, reducing stress as much as possible, taking time to rest and using your medications. Adopt healthy dietary habits like low salt diet, more fruits and vegetables
Among the long-term measures Akinyele recommended include a plan for coordinated public education and enlightenment on sudden cardiac death, widespread screening for hypertension, and at least yearly blood pressure checks for all Nigerians above 18 years.
His words: “Widespread training of Nigerians on cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), which is one of the treatment modalities once a sudden cardiac death occurs, and all laymen should know how to do this to save lives. Widespread availability of automated external defibrillators in public places, widespread availability of emergency services and toll-free numbers to call (ambulance, trained personnel and equipment) in public places.”