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Alan Thicke's Heart Attack: Could a Simple Screening Have Saved Him?

Alan Thicke's Heart Attack: Could a Simple Screening Have Saved Him?

(Copyright DPC)

By    |   Thursday, 15 December 2016 12:23 PM

Acclaimed actor Alan Thicke’s sudden death from a fatal heart attack at the age of 69 is prompting some cardiovascular experts to suggest that a simple screening test might have prevented the tragedy by evaluating his fitness level and spotlighting the risks.

Just recently, the American Heart Association issued a scientific statement suggesting that aerobic fitness should be considered a vital sign of health routinely checked by doctors — just as body temperature, blood pressure, and breathing rates are now.

“Screening for aerobic fitness may have identified abnormalities that would have prompted intervention for Mr. Thicke, particularly if he had risk factors and had a cardiac stress test performed. A stress test could have likely indentified a blocked artery,” says Dr. Kevin Campbell, an internationally recognized cardiologist who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of heart rhythm disorders.

“Sudden cardiac death is the leading cause of death in the U.S. today — second only to ALL cancers combined,” he notes. “More than 450,000 people die suddenly each year.”
Risk factors for heart disease also include smoking, being male, high cholesterol, diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity.

“When we have a heart attack the blood flow is stopped in a particular area of the heart muscle,” Campbell tells Newsmax Health.

“When this happens the muscle dies and this can result in a lethal heart rhythm called ventricular fibrillation or VF. When VF occurs, the heart beats erratically and cannot pump blood to the brain and other organs. If CPR and defibrillation with an AED (automated electronic defibrillator) are not performed within minutes, the patient will die.”

Thick suffered a sudden heart attack and died on Tuesday after playing hockey with his son. According to news reports, Thicke suddenly started vomiting, but was conscious and joking while he was loaded into an ambulance and rushed to a hospital.

Dr. Gabe Mirkin, author of “The Healthy Heart Miracle,” tells Newsmax Health that lack of exercise is another major risk factor for heart attacks, too, as well as certain cancers and premature death.

“If he had been tested for physical fitness he would have known about his increased risk of having a heart attack and perhaps adapted other lifestyle changes to reduce that risk,” says Mirkin.

The AHA explains that aerobic, or cardiorespiratory, fitness is a measure of how well your body can deliver oxygen to tissues. Because this is a pervasive and essential function, it is also a “reflection of overall physiological health and function, especially of the cardiovascular system,” according to the report.

The authors noted that while treadmill tests may still be prescribed for those at high risk for heart disease based on other factors, physicians could calculate a person’s cardiorespiratory fitness based on simple equations and a few keystrokes, making it a practical test as well as a vital one for patients.

“I think it would be an excellent idea for everyone to learn his or her current estimated aerobic fitness level and how it compares to age related average, “says Dr. Chip Lavie, a cardiologist and exercise scientist at the Ochsner Heart and Vascular Institute and co-author of the new AHA statement.

He suggests going on line and using the fitness calculator developed by Dr. Leonard Kaminsky, another author of the study and his colleagues. Visit Kamisky’s Website here.

In addition to aerobic fitness screening, Campbell — assistant professor at the University of North Carolina, Division of Cardiology — suggests Americans start each New Year right by getting the following screening tests:

Blood pressure screening. High blood pressure is known as the silent killer. It damages blood vessels and organs over time so it’s important that all adults are screened annually.

Cholesterol test. High cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease. Most people have no symptoms of high cholesterol and may not even know that their lipids are abnormal.

Eye exam. The eyes can tell a lot about your health, says Campbell, including detecting undiagnosed disease such as diabetes.

Body fat measurement. Using simple skin calipers, you can have your body fat measured to determine where you are from a fitness standpoint and to help you set goals.

Blood chemistry count. Getting annual blood work is important to check for anemia, diabetes and other chronic diseases.

While screening is essential to detecting potentially fatal disease, Campbell points out that knowing CPR and ensuring at AED’s are available in public places, can prevent many deaths.

“Bystanders can use an AED or an automated external defibrillator.” he says. “Some reports say that Mr. Thicke was still alive when he collapsed. It is very likely that the EMS crew began CPR and treated with an AED, but since time is of the essence, the earlier one intervenes in a situation like this the better the potential outcome.”

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Could Alan Thicke's sudden death from a heart attack have been prevented? In the wake his death, some cardiovascular experts are urging wider use of a simple heart-screening test that can spotlight signs that might have indicated Thicke was at risk.
alan, thick, death, screening, heart, test
Thursday, 15 December 2016 12:23 PM
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