Earlier today I had shared a story on the iFirefight page that pointed out 17 firefighter deaths so far this year. A friend of mine commented that most of those were heart related, and the comment is true. Heart attacks continue to be our number 1 killer, although, Toledo, Houston, Columbia MO, were not. This exchanged reminded me about an article I had read a few years ago that makes some interesting points. I don’t recall where I saw it, or who wrote it, but it’s message was something like this:
There is no denying that some firefighters are out of shape. Let’s just be honest with ourselves. Think of your own department and I am sure you know some guys that need to drop some L B’s, me included. So yes, we are asking for trouble in this business when we don’t care of ourselves. But is it all about having two giant plates of spaghetti and then ice cream later? Is it all about just being out of shape? Not so fast my friends!
When we are called into action, we put a great amount of stress on our bodies and our heart. From the moment the tone goes off, all the way through the call, our heart is under the gun. Think about it, it’s 2 A.M. and the call comes in for a structure fire with entrapment. So with not even a chance to rub the sleep from our eyes, we are instantly thrown into a high stress situation. We literally can go from asleep to crawling into a burning home in a short amount of time. No time to stretch, no time to loosen up, no time to warm up – just go!
This is very tough on our hearts. And our heart rates stay up for most of the incident. No other professional occupation that requires this much physical exertion does this. Could imagine of NFL players started the game 5 minutes after waking up? It couldn’t be done.
So the next time someone says heart attacks kill firefighters, don’t disagree, but tell the whole story. By no means does this give us an “out” for being overweight. It just means we need to be even more aware of our physical well being. We can’t, in one hand, say that our job has extra stress and hold a double cheeseburger in the other hand. We can acknowledge that we do deal with extra stress, but we need to take care of ourselves and each other. Be safe!