The Top 10 Causes of Death in Nigeria and How You Can Reduce Your Own Risk

MyMedicalBank main causes of death in nigeria 2019

Unavoidable is death. It is the fate of all human beings. Many deaths in Nigeria are however preventable. Consider Japan for example, life expectancy in the Asian country is 84.62 years. In comparison, life expectancy in Nigeria is 52.89 years. This means that on average a person living in Nigeria is likely to die 32 years before a person living in Japan.

There are numerous causes of death in Nigeria but the top 10 that account for 70% of all deaths in the country are discussed in this article. Considering that the healthcare system in the country is largely underdeveloped and often unaffordable, this article focuses more on helping you enjoy preventive care which is cheaper and better at reducing the risk of diseases, disabilities, and deaths.

1. Neonatal Disorders

Most deaths among newborns (neonates) are classified as preterm or low birth weight, of which nearly four in five usually die within the first 7 days. 80% of all newborn deaths result from three preventable and treatable conditions: complications due to prematurity, intrapartum-related deaths (including birth asphyxia), and neonatal infections.

Preventive measures to reduce the risk of neonatal disorders

  • Getting prenatal care
  • Using screening to detect hidden conditions
  • Thermal protection (e.g. promoting skin-to-skin contact between mother and baby)
  • Early and exclusive breastfeeding
  • Hygienic umbilical cord and skin care

2. Malaria

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Nigeria suffers the world’s greatest malaria burden, with approximately 51 million cases and 207,000 deaths reported annually. Malaria is so prevalent in Nigeria that 97% of the total population is at risk of infection with the disease. Malaria also accounts for 60% of outpatient visits to hospitals, 11% of maternal mortality, and 30 % of child mortality.

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Protection against mosquito bites is key to preventing Malaria.

This can be achieved by

  • Fixing mosquito nets in doors and windows
  • Sleeping under mosquito bed nets (Long Lasting Insecticide Treated Nets or LLINS)
  • Wearing long clothes that cover the skin
  • Applying  mosquito repellent with DEET (diethyltoluamide) to exposed skin
  • Treating clothing, mosquito nets, sleeping bags, and other fabrics with an insect repellent like permethrin
  • Your doctor may also prescribe you a medication to prevent malaria (antimalarial drug)

3. Diarrheal Diseases 

An estimated 151,700 children die in Nigeria every year from diarrhea. Diarrhoea is the second biggest killer of children in Nigeria, responsible for about 16% of child death every year. Diarrhoea is a form of gastrointestinal infection caused by a variety of bacterial, viral, and parasitic organisms or contaminated food or drinking water, or from person to person as a result of poor hygienic practices.

Measures to prevent Diarrhoea

  • Safe drinking-water
  • Use of improved sanitation
  • Hand washing with soap
  • Diarrhea should be treated with oral rehydration solution (ORS), a solution of clean water, sugar, and salt.

4. Lower Respiratory Infections

Lower Respiratory Infections like Pneumonia, Bronchitis, and Bronchiolitis are prevalent in Nigeria with higher morbidity in the rural areas where access to healthcare is more limited.
Preventive measures against Lower Respiratory Infections

The most effective way to help prevent the spread of respiratory germs is to avoid contact with droplets or secretions of saliva, mucus, and tears. You can adopt the following measures:

  • Minimize close contact with persons who have symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing or sneezing
  • Wash your hands regularly and avoid touching your face with unwashed hands to prevent germs from entering your system
  • Avoid sharing personal items such as eating or drinking utensils, toothbrushes, and towels, particularly with the sick
  • Maintain a clean environment
  • Get all necessary vaccinations including your annual flu vaccine
  • Eat a diet rich in vitamins and minerals.
  • Routinely sleep at least 7 hours a night
  • Exercise on a regular basis and meditate to reduce your stress levels
  • Do not smoke and encourage those around you not to smoke
  • Check for mold in your home
  • Improve the indoor air quality in your home and get outside to get fresh air
  • Drink plenty of water and stay hydrated; proper hydration is a great way to help keep your lungs healthy

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Nigeria ranks third among countries with the highest burden of Human Immuno-Deficiency Virus (HIV) infection in the world. The 2019 Nigeria National HIV/AIDS Indicator and Impact Survey found that 1.9 million people are living with HIV and AIDS in Nigeria as of 2019.

Preventive measures against HIV/AIDS include:

  • Practice safe sexual behaviors such as using condoms and having one sexual partner
  • Get tested and treated for sexually transmitted infections including HIV to prevent onward transmission
  • Avoid injecting drugs using unsterile needles and syringes
  • Ensure that any blood or blood products that you might need are tested for HIV
  • Access voluntary medical male circumcision in a sterile or medical facility
  • If you have HIV start antiretroviral therapy as soon as possible for your own health and to prevent HIV transmission to your sexual or drug-using partner or to your infant (if you are pregnant or breastfeeding)

If it is important to know your HIV status to keep you and your partner healthy. Contact MyMedicalBank to book an HIV test or to test for other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) either in the laboratory or confidentially in the comfort of your home anywhere in Nigeria.

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6. Ischemic Heart Disease

Ischemic Heart Disease also known as Coronary Heart Disease occurs when the blood flow to the heart muscle is reduced because of a partial or complete blockage of the arteries supplying it with blood.

Preventive measures to reduce the risk of developing Coronary Heart Disease (CHD)

  • Check your blood pressure and keep it under control. High blood pressure is the number one risk factor for CHD. It is called the ‘silent killer because it usually has no warning signs or symptoms, and many people do not realize they have it
  • Know and check your numbers regularly: Blood Pressure, Blood Glucose, Cholesterol Levels, Weight, Body Mass Index (BMI), and Abdominal Girth
  • Understand the signs and symptoms of a heart attack, more than 70% of all cardiac and breathing emergencies occur in the home when a family member is present and could help a victim
  • Lower your cholesterol levels
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet
  • Check your blood glucose levels
  • Exercise on a regular basis or be more physically active
  • Keep to a healthy weight
  • Do not smoke and encourage those around you not to smoke
  • Reduce your alcohol consumption
  • Keep your diabetes under control
  • Take your medications as prescribed: If you have high blood pressure, high levels of cholesterol, or diabetes, be sure to take your prescribed medications as directed.

To have a doctor or a healthcare professional from MyMedicalBank visit you in the comfort of your own home or workplace to do a health check-up and offer you personalized medical advice, click here.

7. Stroke

Stroke is the most common medical emergency in most hospitals in Nigeria. It accounts for up to 4% of all hospital admissions and 8 out of 10 neurological hospital admissions with at least 100,000 stroke cases occurring every year. The 30-day case fatality rate is as high as 40%. 1 in 4 persons in Nigeria has a risk of developing a stroke in a lifetime.

A stroke is a serious life-threatening medical condition that happens when the blood supply to part of the brain is cut off. Hypertension is the most dominant predisposing factor for stroke; a risk factor in 82.5% of stroke patients that is strongly related to both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.

Preventive measures to reduce the risk of stroke:

  • The best way to help prevent a stroke is to eat a healthy diet including plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, exercise regularly, and avoid smoking and drinking too much alcohol.
  • These lifestyle changes can reduce your risk of problems like arteries becoming clogged with fatty substances (atherosclerosis) and high blood pressure.
  • Know and check your numbers regularly: Blood Pressure, Blood Glucose, Cholesterol Levels, Weight, Body Mass Index (BMI), and Abdominal Girth
  • Take your medications regularly as prescribed
  • Keep a healthy weight
  • Control diabetes and your other medical conditions
  • Check cholesterol – at least once every 5 years

If you would like to book an assessment visit for a doctor from MyMedicalBank to attend to you at home or for a doctor, nurse, physiotherapist, or carer to look after your loved one suffering from a stroke, click here.

8. Birth Defects

Birth defects are also known as congenital abnormalities, congenital disorders, or congenital malformations. They can be defined as structural or functional anomalies (for example, metabolic disorders) that occur during intrauterine life and can be identified prenatally, at birth, or sometimes may only be detected later in infancy, such as hearing defects. Broadly, congenital refers to the existence at or before birth. Although birth defects may be the result of one or more genetic, infectious, nutritional, or environmental factors, some birth defects can be prevented.

Prevention measures for adolescent girls, pregnant women, and women of childbearing age

  • Vaccination especially against the rubella virus
  • Adequate care before and during a pregnancy
  • A healthy diet includes a wide variety of vegetables, fruit, and a dietary intake of vitamins and minerals, particularly folic acid
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Avoid traveling to regions experiencing outbreaks of infections known to be associated with birth defects
  • Reduce or eliminate environmental exposure to hazardous substances such as heavy metals or pesticides during pregnancy
  • Avoid alcohol at any time during pregnancy
  • Avoid smoking cigarettes, marijuana, and other drugs
  • Control diabetes prior to and during pregnancy through counseling, weight management, diet, and administration of insulin when required
  • Prevent infections and screen for infections, especially rubella, varicella, and syphilis
  • See a healthcare professional regularly

Are you an expectant mother or a newborn mother? Would you like to book an appointment for a one-off visit or ongoing maternal care with a doctor, midwife, or nurse in the comfort of your own home anywhere in Nigeria? Contact MyMedicalBank.

9. Tuberculosis

Every year, around 245,000 Nigerians die from tuberculosis (TB) and about 590,000 new cases occur

Preventive measures against Tuberculosis

  • Immunization. Bacilli Calmette-Guerin (BCG) is the vaccine for the prevention of TB and is often administered to children at birth.
  • Maintaining a safe distance from anyone who is coughing or sneezing prevents one from contracting the disease as Tuberculosis is an airborne infection
  • Have a healthy immune system
  • All healthcare personnel should be screened for tuberculosis when they’re hired to reduce the risk of transmission
  • Improve ventilation in indoor spaces so there are fewer bacteria in the air
  • Use germicidal UV lamps to kill airborne bacteria in buildings where there are people at high risk of Tuberculosis

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10. Meningitis

Meningitis is highly contagious and can kill within 24 hours. Cases have been found to occur throughout the year in Nigeria with an observed increase during the dry season. Meningitis is an infection of the protective membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord (meninges). It can affect anyone but is most common in babies, young children, teenagers, and young adults. Meningitis can be very serious if not treated quickly. It can cause life-threatening blood poisoning (sepsis) and result in permanent damage to the brain or nerves.

Preventive measures against Meningitis

  • Preventing meningitis through vaccination is the most effective way to reduce the burden and impact of the disease by delivering long-lasting protection.
  • Antibiotics are also used to help prevent infection in those at high risk of meningococcal and group B streptococcal disease. Controlling epidemics of meningococcal meningitis relies on both vaccination and antibiotics.
  • Some viruses that lead to viral meningitis are not preventable by vaccines. Some great ways to prevent viral meningitis are keeping healthy and practicing good hygiene.

MyMedicalBank is Nigeria’s #1 health management platform for booking appointments, medical tests, home care, telemedicine, health insurance, and other healthcare services from hospitals, clinics, medical laboratories, HMOs, care organizations, and other providers. For inquiries, go to, send an email to [email protected] or call +234 (0) 802 759 0165.

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