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Honor Fallen Firefighters By Protecting Your Health

Honor Fallen Firefighters By Protecting Your Health

Tuesday, 07 October 2008

Every October, the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation sponsors the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Weekend to honor firefighters who died in the line of duty during the previous year. The event is an opportunity for the nation to remember and pay tribute to those who have fallen while serving and protecting their communities. Thousands of guests, including NVFC Chairman Philip C. Stittleburg, attended the 2008 Memorial Weekend in Emmitsburg, MD, on October 4-5.

During the 2007 calendar year, there were 118 firefighters who lost their lives while on duty across the United States, according to the United States Fire Administration (USFA) report Firefighter Fatalities in the United States in 2007. The report revealed that heart attack remains the most frequent cause of line-of-duty death, resulting in 52 firefighter fatalities.

According to an earlier study by the USFA, many firefighters have pre-existing conditions such as hypertension and arteriosclerosis that contribute to their risk of heart attack. Such conditions, if left untreated, can leave individuals at an increased risk for suffering from heart attack. The intense situations that emergency responders face put their bodies under tremendous stress and increase the risk even more.

These facts reinforce what most firefighters know: they need to get and stay healthy to protect their heart – and their lives. But there's a gap between knowing the importance of heart-health and actually changing attitudes and behaviors.

That’s why the National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) launched the Heart-Healthy Firefighter Program in 2003 as a proactive campaign to help combat the alarming trend of firefighter deaths from heart attack. The Program promotes fitness, nutrition, and health awareness within America’s fire and emergency services. It is the nation's only heart attack prevention program targeted at all firefighters and EMS personnel, both volunteer and career. The Program offers resources such as a Cookbook, Resource Guide, newsletters, health screenings, and much more to help keep first responders and their families healthy. The Heart-Healthy Firefighter Program is now challenging departments and personnel to get healthy through the new Adopt the Program initiative.

“Each year, heart attack claims more firefighter lives than any other cause,” said Maggie Wilson, Director of Health and Safety for the NVFC. “We must all work together to prevent and treat heart disease among our first responders and ensure that more firefighters do not die from this preventable disease. The Heart-Healthy Firefighter Program works with departments and personnel to provide them and their families with the tools and knowledge they need to keep their hearts strong.”

You can help honor fallen firefighters by pledging to keep yourself healthy and strong in the line of duty, so that you can protect those who depend on you. Making even small changes now can decrease your risk of heart disease and ensure that you are ready for the next call. Learn more about what you can do to become and stay heart-healthy at www.healthy-firefighter.org. It takes a person with heart to be a firefighter. Keep it strong.

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