Firefighters Face Risks Every Day, Including Heart Risks

Certain jobs pose higher risks of potentially deadly health problems, according to cardiologist Dr. Andrij Baran.

"People who have the most cardiac issues are firefighters. It's because they face many things that stress the heart all at the same time," said Baran. 

"Pulling houses, knocking down doors, cutting through roofs, cutting through walls," said Assistant Fire Chief Peter Shaw, Saratoga Springs Fire Department.

Over time, the stress from fighting fires may be more than the body can handle

"Often times, there is a stiffening of the arterial system in firefighters due to the extreme environmental heat and dehydration. There is increase blood clotting that may lead to heart attack, myocardial infarction," said Jacob DeBlois, researcher at Skidmore College.

"You start seeing a thickening of the wall of the arteries, and more likely of the incidence of development of plaque and when you add acute stress to it, that plaque can crack and that plaque can rupture and cause a heart attack," Baran said.

One factor contributing to the problem is the gear they wear. 

"We have a vapor barrier inside of our gear and what is wet inside stays inside and what is hot stays inside," Shaw said.

"A common thing is dehydration. We go through a lot of fluid, you're sweating profusely and by the time you are done you were absolutely soaked," said Nick Colucci, a Saratoga Springs firefighter.

There are various causes for the increased risk of heart disease and heart attacks and when it comes to fire fighters researchers want to know exactly what the cause is. On the next Healthy Living report, researchers pinpoint one major risk factor. 

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