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‘Do it for yourself': Why firefighters should be proactive about heart health

Nobody should care more about your health than you do; take the time to find some testing resources in your area

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Gordon Graham here with Today’s Tip from Lexipol. Today’s Tip is for my friends in the fire service, and it’s about your heart health.

Cardiac health issues are a hot topic in today’s fire service. We regularly see line-of-duty deaths related to cardiac health. Now you may be thinking, “Gordon, I get a physical from the fire department every year. I know I’m healthy enough to do the job.” The truth is, unless your department provides NFPA 1582-compliant physicals, you are not getting a proper cardio-pulmonary work-up.

While some sort of physical is better than nothing at all, an exam that falls short of NFPA standards may miss important early warning signs of cardiac disease.

If you are in the group of personnel that don’t receive NFPA-compliant physicals, there are some things you can do on your own to help safeguard your health and uncover hidden medical problems.

Multiple companies perform mobile cardio-pulmonary exams, including some that specialize in first responder health. Many hospitals will also perform various cardiac health-related testing for reasonable prices. Some provide full cardio-pulmonary exams, diagnosis, and consultation at no cost to the responder. There are reputable lab facilities that provide routine blood work service options that allow you to directly order various tests without needing to visit your doctor. The IAFC also provides a comprehensive guide you can use to help your primary care provider better understand and screen for the unique risks you face as a firefighter.

Listen, nobody should care more about your health than you do. In an ideal world, your fire department has all the necessary components in place, including NFPA-compliant physicals. But we don’t live in an ideal world. It’s important for personnel to take charge of their own health and wellness.

Take a few minutes to find some testing resources in your area. If your department isn’t making that happen, it’s up to you. Do it for yourself, your brother and sister firefighters, and your family.

And that’s Today’s Tip from Lexipol. Gordon Graham signing off.

Gordon Graham has been actively involved in law enforcement since 1973. He spent nearly 10 years as a very active motorcycle officer while also attending Cal State Long Beach to achieve his teaching credential, USC to do his graduate work in Safety and Systems Management with an emphasis on Risk Management, and Western State University to obtain his law degree. In 1982 he was promoted to sergeant and also admitted to the California State Bar and immediately opened his law offices in Los Angeles.