ince my return to Nigeria a couple of years ago I had known a number of friends and relatives who died suddenly after a brief illness. A closer examination of obituary announcements in the newspapers equally reveals the same pattern of death after a brief illness. Initially, I thought that people were just withholding the true course of death and instead using "brief illness" as a fancy phrase designed to obscure the truth about the particular disease that killed their loved ones.
Over time, however, I have been able to unmask this rather dreadful disease so called brief illness. It is quite alarming to know that far too many Nigerians often succumb to this very all-too-real sudden death after a brief illness. How many times have you heard people around you lament in relation to one who just died, saying things like "He/she wasn't sick at all...I had just seen him/her a couple of days ago." Or "We were all together at a funeral or wine-carrying ceremony yesterday and he/she didn't look sick, and in fact was drinking with us." Going by such common pronouncements, it would appear as if people were just dropping dead all over Nigeria without much course. Well, not exactly because whenever we pay attention to what relatives, neighbours, and friends of the deceased are saying, these deaths were almost always attributed to some native doctor's involvement, poisoning, or some other satanic attack orchestrated by the enemies of the deceased.
The whole saga, which repeats around us on a regular basis, is laughable yet serious, very serious indeed. Beneath the facade "brief illness" is a deadly problem that I have noticed among my fellow hapless citizens. We apparently have a culture in Nigeria where the average person rarely goes to the doctor for any sort of physical examination along with the lab work that typically follows. Even when illness comes, people often drop by a pharmacy store to pick up whatever recommendation the often unlicensed storekeeper recommended. Even worse, some people simply resort to native herbs and other legendary concoctions, all these without any attempt to properly diagnose what their true ailment was. Often by the time these problems come to the surface, it's often too late, and even admission to the hospital at such late stage of any disease only allows the patient but a short time before the inevitable (death) follows.
I have in the past asked people why they didn't want to do a routine annual physical, which might help them discover any potential problem and hopefully address the problem before it becomes deadly. Their answer, often, was that they cannot afford such high cost of going to a doctor for a physical along with the lab tests. Amazingly, the same individuals would be forced to spend hundreds of thousands of naira when admitted to a hospital at a point of near-death. And of course, a lot more is usually spent for their funerals. In other words, penny wise pound foolish.
There is yet a better way to avoid all these, or at least to limit or perhaps mitigate the disastrous effect of many illnesses. As they say, what will be will be. But not everything that comes our way in the form of illness kills us. In fact, by keeping a simple exercise regimen we can often ward off many deceases. There is nothing like and there is no substitute for a daily exercise. One who exercises a mere 30-45 minutes a day, 3 to 5 days a week reduces their chance of developing many of the chronic deceases. It is true that a vigorous exercise gets you cut up, but in the long run the health benefit of exercise or workout far outweighs whatever pleasant physical changes that are visible to us.
Since I'm not a medical doctor, I'm not qualified to recommend specific actions one should take to stay on top of things medically speaking, but common sense teaches us that regular or at least annual visits to a qualified internist for a physical check-up along with the usual blood and urine tests would go a long way to keep us one step ahead of potential disasters in our lives. Next time I wish to go into details on specific exercises that when followed consistently and prudently can equally keep us way ahead of life's medical disasters. And even as we face the inevitable life's changes associated with aging, we can do so with some degree of confidence that growing old gracefully should not be just other people's dream.