6 Ways to Improve Heart Health for Firefighters
American Heart Month is in February, and it is a good time for you to pay attention to your heart health. As a firefighter, heart health should be a high priority. Not only is heart disease the number one cause of death among Americans, it is the number one cause of death among firefighters, causing more deaths than fires or collapsing buildings.
Are you ready to make some positive changes to support a healthy heart?
- Go see your doctor. Get your blood pressure checked and ask for advice on how to keep your heart healthy. If you are unsure what to ask or how to ask, take a minute to review these tips for positive communication with your family physician.
- Take your medication. If your doctor prescribes you medication to take care of your heart, or if you are currently on heart medication, take it as prescribed and check in with your doctor regularly to make sure it is doing what it is supposed to do.
- Quit smoking. Smoking and tobacco use of any kind ups your risk for cardiac problems in addition to increasing your risk of developing a range of cancers. If you smoke, quit but do it effectively. You can talk to your doctor about medications that can be helpful, join support groups both online and in person, and make use of apps that will help you along the way.
- Eat healthfully. This is not always easy on a firefighter’s schedule, but it is far from impossible. You can cook together at the firehouse and at home with your family. Make extras and freeze them for a quick meal or snack later. Up your fruit and veggie intake and decrease how much fried food, trans fats, and processed foods you eat. It does not have to be about weight loss, but if you are overweight, this will be another positive side effect that will also improve your heart health.
- Exercise. If you do not work out regularly, it’s time to start, but make sure you start slowly. Go for a 20-minute walk every other day to get going, then go two days out of three, and steadily increase the time and frequency until you are walking 30 minutes a day, six days a week. They are called cardiovascular workouts for a reason — work your heart regularly to keep it strong.
- Check your performance levels every year. You should be able to maintain certain fitness standards no matter your age throughout your career as a firefighter. Even if you passed all fitness standards with flying colors when you entered the service, check in and make sure your abilities are up to par.
How is your heart? Take the time this month to get a checkup and get on track to prioritizing positive heart health.