Heart Disease in Firefighters: #1 Killer!

One-third of firefighter deaths so far this year appear to have been due to Cardio vascular disease! Firefighters have one on the most stressful jobs around! Many firefighters are overweight and lack adequate physical fitness, which may be contributing...

The body needs a certain amount of fat. If this essential fat is not eaten in the normal diet, a person will crave fat of any sort to get what the body needs. Unhealthy fat comes along with the fats that are needed. This adds fat to our bodies and clogs our arteries!

The balance of types of fat we eat is based on research done by scientists at Brandeis University. These researchers improved the ratio of HDL "good" to LDL "bad" cholesterol by using a specific balanced blend of fats as a significant part of a healthy varied diet. The American Heart Association Step 1 Diet guidelines were used. This suggests to limit total fat to 30% of calories consumed; saturated fat to under 10%; and dietary cholesterol to under 300mg per day.

This balanced fat diet provided approximately equal proportions of the three principal fatty acids: polyunsaturated, monounsaturated and saturates. It avoided the use of trans (read as hydrogenated- see your labels) fatty acids in foods and included regular exercise. Subsequent studies have increased the proportion of monounsaturates in the balance of fats.

It is my opinion that the products that Smart Balance has made based on this research is healthy, and should be considered as substitutes for any and all fatty products in one's diet. They have everything from Mayonnaise to buttery spreads and salad dressing. I use them. Even my daughter loves the peanut butter.

Not Just Fat Balance:
Essential fat can be absorbed through good nutritional sources. Here are some simple hints:

  • Limit saturated fats to 10% of calories
  • Avoid foods with hydrogenated oils and trans fatty acids in baked goods, fried foods, regular shortenings and margarine.
  • Substitute in Smart Balance Products
  • Eat a generous supply of fruits and vegetables. I recommend 5 servings per day
  • Evidence is building that Omega-3 fatty acids may be helpful in reducing heart disease risk. Eat fish two to three times per week. This will increase your Omega 3 fatty acids. Vary the type and source; try to keep to cold water fish such as salmon and sardines.
  • Eat raw nuts, never roasted or cooked. The heat they are cooked in alters the chemical make up of the oils they contain, and they can become dangerous trans fats. When raw, they are a good source of healthy oils and fiber.
  • Use oils to cook with: olive, walnut, sesame,
  • Essential Fatty Acids in supplement form are a good way to alter Cholesterol ratios. Taking them will curb your cravings for fat by giving your body what it needs.
  • Take a look at this web site: http://www.smartbalance.com/foodplan.html


12% or 250,000 deaths annually result from a lack of exercise!

How is this possible?
A 2005 study by the National Fire Protection Association showed that more than 70% of fire departments lacked fitness and health programs. Oh my gosh!

Where to start with Cardio Training:
Twelve minutes of cardio three times a week is a great place to start! Firefighters should really be doing a minimum of one hour per day of exercise. This should be a combination of cardio and resistance training. Below is a chart of how to train, alternating cardio and resistance to regain your health as a firefighter. This is by no means a training plan for taking the CPAT or any other agility test.

The step mill training is for use without, then with a weight vest. This is something you should do if you are on active duty, as you will need this more intense training. Another cardio machine could be substituted in if you do not have access to a step mill. Check with your doctor before you start this, or any exercise program. Remember- this is just to get you started!

Mentioned in the chart is circuit training. The times are mentioned because you can stop any time within a circuit. If you have problems with blood pressure and or cholesterol, ask your doctor specifically if you can train with weights before you use the recommendations here:

Click here to view the Circuit Training Chart.

Click here to view a related article on Circuit Training.

If you have questions or comments, please do not hesitate to write! Best wishes for you health!

Dr. Jen Milus, DC, CSCS