If there’s one thing we can be certain in life, it’s that after life, follows death. Despite people and animals dying for millions of years, we still don’t know all that much about death or what (if anything) comes after it. We’re going to talk about some of the things we do know though, some of which are incredibly intriguing, depressing or just straight up weird.
1. How do we usually die?
Well, the number one cause of death on Earth is heart disease. Statistics show that in 2015 more than eight million lives were lost due to Ischaemic heart disease, a group of diseases among which is sudden cardiac death. This shocking number makes up around 15 percent of all the deaths in 2015. Heart disease can come in many different varieties but usually it can be characterised by a few symptoms such as blood flow restriction, chest pain and heartburn. There’s also many ways to increase the risk of causing such a condition through smoking, eating junk food which increases cholesterol levels, drinking a lot of alcohol, diabetes and diseases passed down by ancestors.
The second most common cause of death around the globe is the stroke, with the third being lower respiratory infections, followed by chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, as well as several types of cancer. Among the other top causes of death are diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, diarrheal diseases such as dysentery, tuberculosis and accidents on the road. Just the top two are responsible for 27% of all the deaths worldwide and over 50% of fatalities are owing to the rest of the top ten list.
2. Sealed Tight
An interesting process which begins after death is the formation of a substance called “adipocere” which covers the whole body and preserves it from decomposing too quickly, keeping it “fresh” for a certain amount of time. The substance is usually white, grey or yellow and can vary in its density.
Hydrolysis is a process where fat cells release enzymes and break down triglycerides to fatty acids when the body starts decomposing. If the correct conditions are present, the process will continue breaking down the molecules to fatty acids and the unsaturated ones will proceed to interact with hydrogen thus resulting in the formation of the “grave wax”. Basically,what adipocere does is protect the body from bacteria which would otherwise decompose the body alot quicker.
For some, like scientists and archaeologists, the substance is quite handy, as it allows them to perform autopsies on old bodies, some even a century old! For others however, like graveyard authorities, this isn’t the case. They find that adipocere is an unpleasant occurrence for them as it prevents them from recycling graves in use.
3. Dead Still
When a person dies, their body stiffens up, a process called rigor mortis. The reason behind it is the loss of a substance called Adenosine Triphosphate which leads to the contraction of the muscles in the body. It usually begins a few hours post-mortem, starting with the smaller muscles and spreading to larger ones. Once the whole body has stiffened, it stays that way for somewhere between 36 and 48 hours and then slowly goes back to a relaxed, limp state. Stretching the muscles of a body will aid in reversing rigor mortis early.
Temperature is also of importance when examining rigor mortis. For example, a body in a hotter temperature will enter the process more quickly than one in a cooler environment. This can be observed in victims of drowning who are often still limp even after being in the water for a few days. On the other hand, if shortly prior to death, a body has been exposed to intense physical labour, it could speed up rigor mortis.
This process is useful for forensics scientists who take into consideration the state of the body to determine an approximate time of death though it’s not always a reliable method as there are many factors that may affect the length and overall timeline of rigor mortis.