Firefighters are at a greater risk of suffering from heart attacks, one new study reveals.
Every day, firies are exposed to extreme heat – making them most at risk, out of all emergency service workers. The Edinburgh University research, published in the Circulation medical journal, has found that heart attacks are the leading cause of death for on-duty firefighters.
The constant strain on the heart leads to increased blood clotting by up to 66% and hinders the function of blood vessels. The blood becomes thicker and stickier, as a result. The firefighters in the study experienced a 1C increase in temperature after being in extreme heat for three-four hours.
Meditation also didn’t help relax the blood vessels, post-rescue.
Add to this pressure, the heavy lifting, manoeuvering, and exposure to toxic chemicals puts firefighters at extreme risk of other types of illnesses. The intense physical and psychological stress of the job means firies need to be proactive about health.
What can firefighters do to maintain heart health?
The loss of fluid and an inflammatory response causes blood vessels to clot, when exposed to fire. The heart muscle is also subject to damage. Professor Nick Mills, who led the research, believes there are simple measures that firefighters can take to reduce the risk. Regular breaks and staying hydrated can help keep firies out of danger.
Maintaining a good level of fitness and knowing how to cool yourself down is important.
Know the warning signs of a heart problem and listen to your body. Heart attack symptoms can include chest pain, tightness or pressure, pain in the arms, jaw, neck or back, dizziness, sweating, nausea, coughing, and extreme anxiety.
Try to incorporate stress reduction strategies into your daily life. Your body is subject to extreme stress and pressure in the heat. Practicing mindfulness, listening to music, cooking or walking are great ways to let your mind and body rest.Some other great tips to improve your heart health include avoiding cigarettes, improving your diet, exercising regularly, eating more fish, avoiding salty foods, and investing in your relationships.
Check for any family history of heart problems. Regular cardiac check-ups are important, too.
It’s not just the people who need rescuing that are in danger. Let’s all work together to raise awareness on the potential threats to the amazing firefighters risking their own lives.