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Gretzky urges Canadians to know emergency signs

Hockey great hopes awareness can prevent tragedies during the holiday season
Wayne Gretzy and close friend Alan Thicke

Canadian actor Alan Thicke died last December from a ruptured aorta while playing hockey with his youngest son, Carter. His passing was mourned by Canadians including long-time friend Wayne Gretzky.

“He was a wonderful man and an amazing father, husband and friend,” Wayne said at the time. “He loved all sports and in particular the game of hockey. He will be missed by all of us.”

Research shows an increase in cardiac events and deaths during the holidays. Cold weather can be partly to blame, as it can increase blood pressure. Other culprits include stress, not just emotional but also physical like snow shovelling and overindulgence in food and alcohol.

Everyone should know the emergency signs.

Wayne Gretzky

New research also shows that another factor is delay in seeking medical care, as people travel or ignore symptoms so as not to cause a fuss during festive events, even misdiagnosing them as indigestion.

Conditions like high blood pressure and atherosclerosis can contribute to both ruptured aortas and heart attacks, and the signs are often similar, including chest pain and nausea.

“The sudden death of a friend is always a shock, and particularly difficult for families during the holiday time,” says Wayne. “Everyone should know the emergency signs and call 9-1-1 if they’re experiencing cardiac distress.”

Signs of a heart attack
  • Chest discomfort – Pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain, burning or heaviness
  • Sweating
  • Upper body discomfort   Neck, jaw, shoulders, arms or back
  • Nausea
  • Shortness of breath
  • Light-headedness

Signs may vary from person to person. They may not always be sudden or severe. Recognize the signs and act right away. 

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