Firefighters Face Higher Heart Attack Risk Due To Extreme Heat

Posted: Apr 4 2017, 11:53am CDT | by , Updated: Apr 4 2017, 12:01pm CDT, in News | Latest Science News

Firefighters Face Higher Heart Attack Risk Due to Extreme Heat
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Exposure to extreme heat and physical exertion during firefighting may trigger heart attack in on-duty firefighters, says study

Firefighting is cited as one of the most difficult and stressful jobs in the world. The nature of the job itself is one reason as firefighters are supposed to save lives of others by putting their own life at risk. This makes them highly susceptible to burn injury and death. But even if firefighters manage to avoid injuries during such events, it does not necessarily mean they are out of danger.

A new research suggests that firefighters are at higher risk of heart attack due to heat. Exposure to extreme heat and physical exertion during firefighting can promote blood clotting and blood vessel impairment. And these are one of the few changes associated with increased risk of heart attack.

“These harsh conditions can cause injury to the heart muscle in healthy firefighters and may explain the link between fire suppression and risk of heart attacks.” Lead study researcher Nicholas Mills, a cardiologist at UK’s University of Edinburgh said.

Researchers have found that sudden heart attack is the leading cause among firefighters and is responsible for 46 percent of on-duty firefighter deaths.

For the study, researchers randomly selected 19 healthy firefighters from the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and asked them to participate in two fire simulation exercises, each a week apart. In the exercises, firefighter had to rescue a victim (weighing roughly 176 pounds) from a two-story building while exposing themselves to extreme temperatures (up to 400 degree Celsius).

Heart rate and blood pressure of all the participants was monitored before and after the exercise. For this purpose, firefighters wore heart monitors which helped researchers to assess their heart health or strain on their cardiovascular function.

Researchers found that extreme heat and physical exertion during the exercise contributed to the processes that could trigger heart attack. Intense exercises also have the same result.

“We assessed blood clotting in response to both extreme heat and physical exertion. In this setting, an increase in blood clotting is likely an exaggerated normal physiological reaction to both these stressors,” said Mills.

“We discovered the core body temperature increased, on average, nearly 2 degrees Fahrenheit over 20 minutes. And increases in hemoglobin occur as the body loses water and blood gets more concentrated.”

Although the study involved small sample sizes, it has implications for the health of all firefighters. The findings encourage practitioners to regularly monitor the conditions of firefighters by conducting tests and scanning and also to understand the warning signs of heart attack. So that, firefighters can properly deal with the situation and receive medical attention as soon as possible before something worse happens.

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.




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