The men and women of public safety are tough, in control, and working to put others ahead of themselves. It takes a lot of “heart” to do the job. If you wear a uniform, be aware that your risk of heart disease might be higher than the general population.
February is Heart Month – a reminder that we all need to take care of our hearts so we will be around to celebrate many more Valentine’s Days with our loved ones.
Being a first responder is one of the most stressful jobs in the U.S. Long shifts, life and death situations, and strenuous physical exertion can take a toll on the heart. A number of studies involving law enforcement officers found sudden cardiac deaths accounted for 10 percent of all on-duty police deaths in the U.S.
Cardiovascular disease was found to be the primary on-duty and lifetime mortality risk for firefighters.
The danger increased for first responders who were diabetic, overweight, smoked, used excessive alcohol and didn’t exercise.
Female officers, firefighters and EMTs also need to pay attention. Their rates of heart disease and heart attack have increased, and the Centers for Disease Control lists heart disease as the leading cause of death for women in the U.S.
While we may not be able to reduce the stress involved with public safety, there are clear steps that can cut your risk of heart disease:
- If you smoke, quit
- Improve and control cholesterol levels
- Reduce high blood pressure
- Eat a heart-healthy diet
- Get to a healthy weight
- Get adequate sleep
- Reduce alcohol intake
- Begin aspirin therapy
Police and fire organizations are now calling for mandatory medical exams, wellness and fitness requirements and annual physical fitness performance evaluations. They also recommend that individuals buddy-up and create workout groups, walking clubs and other physical challenges in for their departments.
Law enforcement officers can find heart-healthy tips at https://www.officer.com/command-hq/supplies-services/healthcare/article/20998653/heart-disease-and-law-enforcement.
Firefighters can go to https://healthy-firefighter.org/.