TYLER, TX (KLTV) -The brave men and women who risk their lives fighting fires are at a three times greater risk of heart attacks.
That troubling data is what led an East Texas doctor to look into preventative care that can hopefully detect and prevent heart disease in first responders.
“Studies have shown that its due to our lack of sleep,” says Chief David Coble, with the City of Tyler’s Fire Department. “We don’t get that REM sleep, we’re having to jump up and down in the middle of the night.”
"Then you take this guy who may be overweight or have some risk factors and genetics,” adds Primary Care Physician David Ball. “You throw a 75-pound pack on his back, the heat, and dehydration it's a recipe for disaster."
Ball says firefighters run a 300 percent increased risk of suffering from heart attacks and, like most people, their first symptom of heart disease is the initial heart attack itself. He believes that if those risk factors are detected early the chances for disaster can be lessened, now he’s hoping a study that began November 14 with members of the City of Tyler’s Fire Department, called First Alarm Heart Health will prove that.
"What he wants to do is a more intense cholesterol screening,” says Coble. “That would be the blood draw and then they also want to do a calcium scan of the firefighter's heart."
Each firefighter that participates will receive a personalized lifestyle guide to help them get ahead of problems, if any, that are detected through the doctor’s testing.
"What I'm hoping is that we will identify those that are at the most risk and then help them make the lifestyle changes that will occur,” says Ball. “So they don't have the heart attack."
Each firefighter’s participation in the study is voluntary and cost them only $75 if they decided to do so.
They will also revive a personalized workout and nutrition plan.
The data collected in Tyler will then be used in a national study.