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‘Barkindo may have died of heart attack, not COVID-19’

By Chukwuma Muanya
09 July 2022   |   4:24 am
Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity, according to the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) definition.

FILE PHOTO:Late OPEC’s former Secretary-General Mohammed Barkindo attends a session of Kazakhstan Energy Week in Nur-Sultan, Kazakstan September 26, 2019. REUTERS/Mariya Gordeyeva/File Photo

Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity, according to the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) definition.

The sudden death of the late Secretary-General, Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), Dr. Mohammad Sanusi Barkindo, recalls the above definition of health.

He looked hale and hearty, but total well-being, according to WHO’s definition, goes beyond looks. He died at about 11pm on Tuesday, July 5, 2022. Born April 20, 1959, he passed at 63.

The circumstances surrounding Mr. Barkindo’s death remained unclear as of the time of filing this report. Unconfirmed reports suggest that he died in his sleep. He had on Tuesday, held a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari during which he announced that his six-year tenure as OPEC scribe was coming to an end. Apart from visiting Aso Rock, Mr. Barkindo also on Tuesday, delivered a speech at the ongoing Nigerian Oil and Gas Conference in Abuja.

The sudden death of Barkindo, in the light of rising cases of COVID-19, has raised many questions on what happened to him. Was it COVID-19 induced heart failure or organ failure? Was it heart attack? Was it long COVID-19?

Critics said the situation has called for renewed public health awareness on causes of sudden death.
A professor of oncology and radiology, Ifeoma Okoye, said the reference case could be categorised as having been a victim of ‘Sudden Death Syndrome!’

Okoye said: “Looking at the physical frame of the reference case, one could categorise him easily as obese, apple shaped, with a prominent abdominal girth, suggesting excessive visceral fat, thus likely a subject with metabolic syndrome.

“Obesity, consisting of well and very well represented muscle-adipose tissue, generates numerous cardiovascular and metabolic complications, etc., and is well-known, as a risk factor for cardiovascular disease mortality and sudden cardiac death.”

Looking at deaths accruing from non-violent causes, the current literature suggests that sudden death due to ‘CVD causes’ is the main death threat, thus represents a major public health problem.

According to the WHO, worldwide, in 2015, 20 million cardiovascular disease (CVD) deaths, accounting for 30 per cent of all deaths worldwide was recorded.

Okoye said all current medical research, are directed towards elucidating the underlying driver/triggers of sudden cardiac death, especially creating criteria to establish which of the individuals in the general population are most likely to die suddenly.

Okoye explained: “Sudden cardiac death could result from; acute myocardial infarction (indicated as cause of death in 53 per cent of cases, and seen in people, who are relatively young), myocardial sclerosis, cardiomyopathies (dilated, hypertrophic and mixed), myocardial rupture, myocarditis and high blood pressure, in order of prevalence.

“Analysis of obesity, as a risk factor for CVD, is usually determined by the body mass index, which in turn determines the thickness of the adipose tissue measured in the abdominal wall.

“The distribution of abdominal adiposity, is also known as a risk factor, which along with high serum levels of triglycerides, high serum levels of free fatty acids, low levels of HDL cholesterol, diabetes mellitus type 2 and high blood pressure, are part of the metabolic syndrome.

“Though obesity is most often secondary to an increased food intake in subjects with a certain genetic predisposition, it may result because of metabolic disorder, endocrine malady, wrong lifestyle choices, & brain tumor or traumatic lesions.”

Okoye recommended ten golden rules to reduce heart attack risk. The Nigerian Heart Foundation (NHF), the Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) have also endorsed the rules.
They include:
1. Engage in daily physical activity
2. Eat minimal fats and oils. Avoid artificial trans fat
3. Eat 5 portions of fresh fruits and vegetables daily
4. Limit salt intake to less than 5 grams daily (one teaspoon)
5. Reduce and maintain healthy body weight (BMI less than 25)
6. Know and monitor your numbers (BP less than 130/ 80)
7. Avoid tobacco use and exposure to second -hand tobacco use
8. Avoid harmful alcohol intake
9. Manage stress and take time to relax
10. Sleep for at least six – nine hours daily

Former President, Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Association of Professional Bodies of Nigeria (APBN) and Commissioner of Health, Kogi State, Dr. Omede Idris, told The Guardian yesterday that the sudden death of Barkindo within 24 hours of a beaming and exciting interaction and home coming at the Presidential Villa of Nigeria during a visit to President Muhammadu Buhari, create a huge shock and the vulnerability of human life to abrupt and sudden extinction, without room for medical intervention.

Idris, however, said the situation calls for regular medical checkup, run through investigations, healthy living habits, adherence to medical professional advice, check up and medication as the case might be.

He said it might be difficult to allude to the cause of death, without post mortem investigation and also being abreast of his background medical and health conditions. “In reality, there could be many causes of sudden death. These range from systemic and metabolic disorders, acute organ failure, shock in various forms including some ruptured aneurysms, and infectious conditions, amidst others. The ultimate diagnosis to ascertain the cause of death will require postmortem and histopathological findings as definite or probable cause of death. We await that if that services will be deployed. May God grant him paradise and console all that are touched by his death,” the physician said.