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Study Finds Firefighters Have Greater Heart Risk While Responding To Emergencies

Study Finds Firefighters Have Greater Heart Risk While Responding To Emergencies

Wednesday, 04 April 2007
A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine on March 22 found that firefighters face a much higher risk of dying from heart problems while responding to an emergency than while performing non-emergency activities. The study underscores the need for fire departments to make proper diet and exercise a priority.

Conducted by researchers at Harvard Medical School, the study sought to determine the duty-specific risk of firefighter deaths from coronary heart disease. The researchers analyzed the data from all on-duty firefighter deaths between 1994 and 2004, except those firefighters who died in the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.


The study found that the odds of a firefighter dying from coronary heart disease were significantly higher during emergency firefighting duties than during non-emergency duties. Fire suppression was associated with the highest risk, calculated at approximately 10 to 100 times higher than the risk during down time. Other emergency response activities, including responding to an alarm and returning from an alarm, also showed increase risk.

Heart disease, including heart attacks, is the leading cause of firefighter deaths each year. The National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) launched the Heart-Healthy Firefighter Program in 2003 to promote fitness, nutrition, and health awareness within the nation's fire and emergency services. This program is the only national heart attack awareness and prevention campaign targeted at all firefighters and EMS personnel, both volunteer and career. Learn more about the NVFC Heart-Healthy Firefighter Program here.

To read the full text of the study, Emergency Duties and Deaths from Heart Disease Among Firefighter in the United States, click here. To read more about the study on CNN, click here.

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