A Push for Prevention
- By Jerry Laws
- Aug 01, 2005
I don't expect you to read and remember every word published in this
magazine, Dear Reader. But I hope the contents benefit you always and educate
you sometimes. In that vein, let me repeat an important point made in an article
we published this summer (June 2005): "The most common symptom of a heart attack
is the denial of symptoms by the patient," veteran emergency care trainer C. J.
Palmer wrote. Although he was writing about emergency incidents rather than
everyday health issues, the larger truth of his statement is aimed at all of
Our society, and especially adult American men, can't be bothered with
preventive care. On the whole we are striving and consuming as fast as we can,
ignoring danger signs and counting on pills, surgeries, and other repairs to fix
whatever fails. Only quick fixes will satisfy us.
Here's an example: The National Fire Protection Association recently analyzed
firefighter deaths recorded from 1995 to 2004 and discovered 75 percent of the
firefighters who died of heart attacks had gone to work with known or detectable
There were 440 firefighters who died during that period from heart attack or
some other type of cardiac sudden death, and those fatalities were typically
triggered by stress or exertion. NFPA obtained medical information for 308 of
them and found 134 had previously suffered a heart attack or undergone bypass
surgery or angioplasty/stent placement. "The majority had known heart disease
but were not on restricted duty. An additional 97 had severe blockage of the
heart's arteries but it is unclear whether this was known prior to their
deaths," the association reported.
Heart attack is a leading killer of firefighters. NFPA says the death toll
attributed to heart disease is a prime reason why firefighter deaths haven't
declined even as total structure fires have dropped. "The new information points
to ways to protect firefighters from the biggest threat to their lives," the
association observed. "Just as self-contained breathing apparatus and
heat-resistant protective clothing have saved firefighters during interior
structural fire protection from many effects of fire, health promotion,
screening, appropriate job restrictions, and subsequent treatment can reduce the
incidence of sudden cardiac death."
Think preventively, in other words. We know this is right; now, will we take
our own advice?
This column appeared in the August 2005 issue of Occupational Health &
This article originally appeared in the August 2005 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.
Jerry Laws is Editor of Occupational Health & Safety magazine, which is owned by 1105 Media Inc.