Alan Thicke’s death was sudden; could there have been warning signs?

Alan Thicke’s death was sudden; could there have been warning signs?

Alan Thicke, star of the 80’s/90’s hit, Growing Pains, suffered a massive heart attack* this week while playing hockey with his son and died shortly after. While cardiovascular disease is the nation’s leading cause of death, could subtle warning signs indicate the need for medical attention and perhaps prevent sudden cardiac arrest?

“A fatal heart attack often strikes suddenly in people who appear to be healthy but have undiagnosed underlying heart disease,” says Dr. Paul Silverman, chief, section of cardiology at the Advocate Heart Institute at Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Ill. “However, in many people, small warning signs may present earlier.”

Dr. Silverman says symptoms of an imminent or actual heart attack include:

  • Chest discomfort
  • Unexplained shortness of breath
  • Light-headedness
  • Heart palpitations
  • Back pain or jaw discomfort with exertion

“If you notice any of these symptoms, you should seek medical attention,” says Dr. Silverman. “While we don’t know if Alan Thicke had any of these warning signs, if you experience them, seek care from a medical professional. Starting a treatment plan under the guidance of your primary care physician or cardiologist could help to prevent sudden cardiac arrest.”

Dr. Silverman advises if these symptoms are accelerating or coming on while at rest or with minimal exertion, or if you have any doubts, call 911. Do not drive yourself to the emergency room.

*Disclaimer: The autopsy results were released after this story ran and Mr. Thicke died of an aortic rupture, not a heart attack, but the advice given remains the same. Dr. Silverman says that as another cause of sudden cardiac death, aortic rupture more commonly presents with infrascapular pain (below the shoulder blade) and a tearing sensation in the mid back. Chest pain is one of the symptoms that overlaps between heart attacks and aortic ruptures. 

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Comments

12 Comments

  1. Even in the interest of public health information, it’s pretty tacky to use Alan Thicke as an illustration so soon after his death. You could have at least waited until after the memorial service.

    • After the memorial service?? Really?! Like a few days would’ve really mattered??? I doubt that very much! I’m sure Alan wouldn’t mind! The sooner it’s put out there, the better. Putting this out now, could be saving someone’s life! Did ya ever think of THAT, before you wrote YOUR tacky message, Cheri?!!?

    • Tiffany A Howard December 16, 2016 at 7:52 am · Reply

      I agree. Body’s not even cold yet, smh.

  2. I don’t agree with your point at all Cheri. No one wanted to see Alan Thicke die so soon. While 69 is much too young, if having this immediate and prominent example can prevent another premature death, I’m all for it.

  3. I disagree. A lot of people were surprised to hear about his untimely death. Why should the medical profession wait? There are plenty of people out there who could be having these symptoms and not know they should be checked out. Maybe this article will save someones life.

  4. Sheesh! Nothing to take offence to Cheri! You’re going to drive yourself to an early grave!

  5. Cheri Grizzard…..really? So waiting to alert people about life saving measures should wait
    until later? That’s hysterical. No, it should absolutely be shared immediately since so many lives can be saved if people knew the warning signs. Come on!!! Thank you Advocate for sharing!

  6. Medical professionals want to save lives. The sooner this information is shared, the better!

  7. I saw a photo of Mr. Thicke with his two sons, one of whom was the 19 year old he was playing hockey with when he died. Both Alan and his older son, Robin, had cigarettes in their hands! RECIPE for heart issues, Alan! Sad.

  8. Cheri, you are entitled to your opinion. But have you ever heard that a stitch in time saves nine? So, I disagree with you that it’s too soon to let this lifesaving information out there. Just like Jesus Christ does not mind his death bringing eternal salvation to those that believe, I’m very positive that Alan would be happy if this publication could be a reason to prevent others from any possible sudden death.
    *Shalom*

  9. This story is FACTUALLY INCORRECT and contributes to the increasing pile of “fake news” being spread around the internet. The fact is that Alan Thicke died of an aortic rupture… not a heart attack. Of all people, Dr. Silverman should know the difference, and the “warning signs” are different.

    • Holly Brenza

      Hi Stephen,

      The autopsy results were released after this story ran, and Mr. Thicke died of an aortic rupture, not a heart attack, but the advice given remains the same.

      Dr. Silverman says that as another cause of sudden cardiac death, aortic rupture more commonly presents with infrascapular pain and a tearing sensation in the mid back. Chest pain is one of the symptoms that overlaps between heart attacks and aortic ruptures.

About the Author

Kate Eller
Kate Eller

Kate Eller, health enews contributor, is director of public affairs for Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center and Advocate Lutheran General Hospital. She came to Chicago and Advocate in 2014 after living in Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri, Kansas and Texas. She enjoys road trips, exploring little towns, minimalism, hiking and urban hiking around Chicago.