What do you think is the biggest cause of death for firefighters on duty? Well if your first thought was burns or smoke inhalation you'd be wrong! According to research published in the June edition of Vascular Medicine "since 1977, sudden cardiac death has accounted for the largest share of on-duty deaths among firefighters - surpassing burns, trauma, asphyxiation and smoke inhalation."
Although the number of deaths amongst firefighters is declining, cardiac death still counts for 42% of deaths in on-duty firefighters over the past 5 years. A potential untold problem that could be putting additional strain on firefighter's hearts is heat stress as firefighters wearing heavy insulating protective gear are often required to partake in intense exercise whilst fighting fires. Two studies to be published in Vascular Medicine have sought to examine the impact of heat stress on the heart and in blood vessels, looking at how much impact firefighters protective uniforms have on the heart and the effect of aspirin on blood vessel function.
Dr. Hamburg, Associate Editor of Vascular Medicine, stated that:
"These two studies demonstrate that heat stress may be a key factor in contributing to cardiovascular risk in firefighters though its adverse effects on blood vessel function".
'Dr. Mobin Malik and Dr. Michael Widlansky of the Medical College of Wisconsin commented in the accompanying editorial to the studies that:
"These two investigative groups should be commended for their efforts in further advancing our understanding of the impact of heat stress on vasculature and pointing us in the direction of potential mechanisms and therapies."
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