A cardiologist, Dr Folasade Olaitan Alli, has raised the alarm over the rate at which Nigerians are dropping dead in their prime as a result of heart-related problems, saying it calls for concern.

Dr. Alli who is the Chief Medical Director of Lagos Executive Cardiovascular Clinic (LECC), a new technological-advanced cardiovascular clinic, raised the alarm on Monday saying that a good number of young Nigerians are not checking themselves of heart-related issues and taking appropriate preventive measures resulting in preventable deaths. She disclosed that the problem is rampant among the youths and young adults in their 30s.

“Unfortunately, there have been instances of young Nigerians dying with heart-related diseases, and number one cause on the list is the silent killer, hypertension. High blood pressure is not only on the increase, but has also gotten to an epidemic level.

“In my earlier years of practice, hypertension was mostly an issue of the mature and old folk, starting from 40, but today, this epidemic has shifted backward by, at least, a decade. Several younger Nigerians are dying today of the same problem.

“The first issue with the younger generation is the false and unwise belief that they are young, and thus, do not need to regularly check themselves; then the second issue is the fact that they are not taking preventive measures and, of course, the lack of public information on these measures plays a major role.

“When told their blood pressure is high, some reply ‘I reject it’, but guess what? It is indeed high – there is nothing to reject because it is happening. The bottom line is that, this attitude needs to change”.

According to the 53-year-old cardiologist who has over 30 years of experience, it is mind-boggling to know that younger Nigerians between the age range of 28 – 30 are the most affected as a result of lifestyle.

“In those days, we used to have a definition of 40 but now we see 28 to 35 year old patients” she said, explaining the link between hypertension and lifestyles.

“We need to be our brothers’ keeper, we need to protect one another, and protect parents from unnecessary heartaches. My advise to the youths and young adults in their late 20s and 30s is to engage with the literature on the cardiovascular epidemic sweeping across our country, maintain a relationship with a cardiologist, and develop healthy attitudes that can help combat hypertension.

“What you eat and drink matters. Adopt a healthy diet and reduce salt content in your food. Increase physical activity and maintain a healthy weight. Quit smoking and maintain a healthy attitude towards alcohol intake or simply avoid drinking alcohol altogether.

“Your stress level matters a lot too – for example, think about the health implication before you take a serious business decision – don’t attempt to whack a round brick into a triangular hole, it will stress you out! Also, we need to rid ourselves of nonchalant attitude towards our health. Together, we can avoid premature deaths.

“Take food for instance. We have good fat and bad ones and these bad ones are the ones that stick to the walls of blood vessels. They thicken the blood vessels thereby causing the heart to pump harder. In simpler words, the buildup of junk in our blood vessels causes the heart to work harder than it ought to, and remember that, already, the heart is the hardest working organ in the body.

“The blood vessels are very pliable but when you have bad fat that have settled on the wall of the vessels the vessel becomes thick, it hardens up. So when the heart pumps, it is pumping against a high resistance; so all these things contribute to rising blood pressure” she said.

However, she pointed that the high blood pressure could also be hereditary. “There is what is called family history whereby hypertension runs in family. So hereditary comes to play in addition to lifestyle. But we now have cases whereby there is no family history and people develop it. Therefore, family history or not, hypertension must be taken seriously” she added.

She advised that people should imbibe the culture of going for medical checkups and be up to date as absence of symptoms does not mean there is no problem or that one is okay.

“I have heard few cases of young men dropping dead of a cardiac arrest during a tennis match, while jogging, and so on … before you decide to engage in heavy duty sports, check yourself. Perhaps, walking is what is best for you and not tennis.”

“Hypertension is heavily age-related therefore, any individual from age 28 should begin to make sure he checks his blood pressure. Check your health once in a year by doing a comprehensive health assessment during which some abnormality in your body may be detected and corrected without further complications.

Dr. Alli disclosed that hypertension and other heart-related diseases among adults and children can now be easily detected, controlled and maintained using expertise and modern equipment such as the 4D Echo, Ankle Brachial Index (the first of its kind in Lagos State), and other advanced technologies that are in use at Lagos Executive Cardiovascular Clinic.