December 15, 2016 2:29 am
Updated: December 15, 2016 2:33 am

Death of Alan Thicke raises questions about health risks for older hockey players

WATCH: The news that Alan Thicke died while playing hockey with his son has raised questions about older men playing intense sports. Linda Aylesworth reports on what can be done to reduce the risk.

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The news that actor Alan Thicke died while playing hockey at the age of 69 has undoubtedly sent a chill through the senior hockey community.

What are the risks of playing an intense sport at a later age and what, if anything, can be done to reduce that risk?

Those are questions Dr. Saul Isserow of Vancouver General Hospital’s Centre for Cardiovascular Health hopes to answer.

“We are trying to find out what the prevalence is of those risk factors that contribute to heart disease in the exercising population in B.C.,” said Isserow, who studies the association between cardiac health and sports in people over 35 years of age.

Exercise is good for people of all ages, no doubt, but Isserow said you have to be sensible about it, especially when it comes to a high-intensity sport like hockey.

WATCH: The health risks of irregular activity


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“Vigorous, unaccustomed exercise can occasionally be dangerous, especially if an individual is at risk of heart attack at other times,” he said.

A look back at Alan Thicke’s Vancouver talk show

Risk factors include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and a family history of heart disease.

But even if you have none of those things, there is another risk factor everyone will inherit if they live long enough.

“Unfortunately, age is a risk factor for cardiac disease irrespective of the other risk factors,” Isserow said.

His research hopes to find how best to ensure exercise is both safe and fun.

Shying away from breaking a sweat is not the answer. Living life to the fullest is the best prescription for good health, but it is important to go about it the right way.

“Make sure that despite the fact that you exercise you check with your doctor and make sure the risk factors that we know are prevalent in heart disease are well taken care of,” he said.

– With files from Linda Aylesworth

© 2016 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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