Quiz Sounds the Alarm for Heart Health

Firefighters in the know about heart health now have more to gain then just free-flowing arteries.

The National Volunteer Fire Council is making that knowledge profitable with their campaign, "Sounding the Alarm for High Cholesterol."

"The National Volunteer Fire Council has been trying to spread the message to firefighters so that they know what their cholesterol numbers are," says Director of Heath and Safety Maggie Wilson.

Wilson said firefighters all over the country can log on to www.healthy-firefighter.org . Once there, they answer questions about things like when firefighters are most likely to have heart attacks, risk factors for heart attacks and the difference between good and bad cholesterol.

And there's an added bonus.

"In ten markets, we're doing a heart-healthy challenge where they will be competing against other departments," Wilson said.

Firefighters in places like Tennessee, Louisiana and New Mexico will go head-to-head in a battle of who knows the most about heart health.

Participants will be eligible to win $1,500 and tickets to a minor league baseball game.

There are incentives for everyone else as well. In addition to tips for healthy living, and recipes for healthy eating, there is a meter that gouges how well quiz-takers are doing.

Right now, the average score is 78 percent - but, Wilson said, that number can improve.

"If they get the questions right."

This is just the latest of NVFC's efforts to lower incidents of heart disease and heart attacks in firefighters. The group can be seen at firefighter's conferences all over the country, testing cholesterol levels in attendees and providing live cooking shows that provide healthy meal alternatives. They also promote the Fired Up for Fitness Challenge, where firefighters can develop their own fitness program and compare their progress with other participants across the United States.

And their work is needed.

According to the NVFC, heart attack is the leading cause of on-duty death among firefighters. The group says 44 percent of all firefighter deaths from the years 1990 through 2000 were attributed to heart attacks.

The latest numbers from the US Fire Administration show, of the 115 firefighter deaths in 2005, 55 were caused by heart attack.

And a March 22 study from the New England Journal of Medicine found that firefighters have a much higher risk of dying from heart problems while responding to an emergency than while performing non-emergency activities.