New Orleans, LA – The National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) performed cholesterol screening on firefighters as part of its Heart-Healthy Firefighter Program at Fire Rescue International in New Orleans, LA on August 13-14. Just more than 1,000 individuals had their cholesterol checked, the most ever for a two-day event.
“The response at this show and all other shows we have attended this year has been overwhelming,” said NVFC Chairman Philip C. Stittleburg. “There has been a lot of enthusiasm surrounding the program and we believe we are starting to increase awareness of the serious health risks facing firefighters.”
One of the greatest risk factors for heart disease is cholesterol. Some others include heredity, smoking, nutrition and physical fitness. During year one of the program, the NVFC has focused on informing firefighters of the benefit of knowing your cholesterol levels as a factor in preventing heart disease. The screening takes only about 7 minutes to complete. Participants fill out a consent form, have a small amount of blood drawn from their finger and then receive their confidential results in 4-5 minutes. A counselor is on hand to discuss the results with each participant, confidentially.
Ideal results for cholesterol include a total cholesterol score of under 200. In addition, individuals want their HDL, or “good” cholesterol score, above 40. The recommended ratio of total cholesterol to good cholesterol should be less than 5 for men and less then 4.5 for women.
Since the launch of the program in January 2004, the NVFC and the Heart-Healthy Firefighter Program have performed cholesterol testing on more than 4,000 people. The program was originally funded by a 2002 Assistance to Firefighters grant.
The NVFC provides free cholesterol screening, as well as information about how to lower cholesterol, eat more nutritiously, become more physically active, and live a healthier lifestyle. Also, in Phase Two of the program, which was just recently approved for funding, the NVFC plans to perform blood pressure and body composition screenings at major trade shows. In addition, Phase Two of the program will more profoundly emphasize physical fitness in the fire service. The NVFC will be launching its Heart-Healthy Firefighter Challenge where individuals will be able to track their daily physical activity online and receive recognition for their efforts.
“The efforts of the National Volunteer Fire Council to reduce firefighter deaths address one cause of firefighter fatalities throughout the volunteer fire service,” said U.S. Fire Administrator R. David Paulison, after having his own cholesterol levels screened at the NVFC booth. “I hope that all firefighters will join me in having their cholesterol checked and make a concerted effort to help this nation reduce the unacceptable number of line of duty deaths.”
“The NVFC is looking forward to launching Phase Two of the program and continuing to educate firefighters across the country,” added Stittleburg. “The amount of firefighters we lose in the line-of-duty each year to heart attacks in unacceptable and the NVFC is confident this program can make a real impact.”
The program has been guided by the NVFC Heart-Healthy Work Group and Medical Advisory Panel who have played key roles in developing the program and have taken a strong interest in promoting firefighter health. Key members of the Work Group include the United States Fire Administration, the American Heart Association, the American Dietetics Association and the National Heart, and the Lung and Blood Institute.
For more information on the Heart-Healthy Firefighter program, visit www.healty-firefighter.org.