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Study: Many Firefighters And Rescue Workers Are Overweight

Posted by Chrissie Cole
Friday, March 20, 2009 11:24 AM EST
Category: Major Medical
Tags: In The Workplace, Firefighters, EMT, Obesity, Heart Disease


IMAGE SOURCE: © iStockPhoto / firefighter / author: seanjboggs

A new study by a group of local medical schools and hospitals shows more than 75 percent of fire, EMT and police recruits in Massachusetts are overweight or obese.

“Excess weight, especially excess fat weight, is unhealthy for anyone,” says lead author Tony Tsismenakis of Boston University Medical School. “But for emergency responders, it’s especially unhealthy.”

If the very people entrusted with watching over us in medical and life threatening situations are not in good physical shape, they are jeopardizing the lives of co-workers and accidents victims who depend on them as well as their own lives, say researchers.

Excess weight also contributes to heart disease, a major cause of death among emergency responders, and back and neck injuries, a leading cause of disabilities among them.

For the study, which is published online in the journal Obesity, researchers looked at 370 firefighter and emergency medic recruits examined at two Boston area clinics. They found that almost all of them were overweight or obese. Their median age was 26.

Body Mass Index (BMI), the measure of body fat based on height and weight was used to determine obesity. A BMI between 25 and 29.9 is considered overweight and a BMI over 30 is considered obese, according to the U.S. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI).

About 22 percent of the recruits were within normal weight ranges with a BMI of 18.5 to 24.9. Nearly 44 percent were overweight with a BMI of 25 to 29.9 and a third was obese with a BMI of 30 or more.

While the majority of overweight participants passed a treadmill exercise test - recommended by the National Fire Protection Association for safe firefighting - nearly half of the obese recruits (42 percent) failed.

Study authors recommend setting aside work-out time in the day for firefighters, counseling on nutrition and exercise and health surveillance monitoring.

Another recent study, suggests being obese can take years off your life and in some cases it may be as dangerous as smoking.

Overweight and obese individuals are at increased risk for many diseases and health conditions such as high blood pressure, osteoarthritis, high cholesterol, Type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, gallbladder disease, sleep apnea and respiratory problems, and even some cancers. #

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