Heart diseases are the leading killer of Americans. Sadly, due to the nature of the job, truckers are not spared. Long hours of driving, lack of adequate sleep and exercise, and unhealthy food choices are just some of the reasons that put truckers at risk of heart diseases.
One of the most common types of heart disease that affect truck drivers is coronary artery disease or CAD. CAD happens when the arteries that supply blood to the heart become hard and narrow due to buildup of cholesterol and plaque on the inner wall. Because of the condition of the arteries, a person with CAD is more prone to angina, heart failure, heart attack and arrhythmias.
Moreover, a study shows a high mortality rate among truck drivers due to other heart conditions including cardiovascular disease (CVD), ischemic heart disease (IHD) and myocardial infarction.
Our heart is vital for our survival and it just makes sense that we should care for it as much as possible. Having a healthy heart allows you to have quality and longer life. You can reduce your risk of heart problems if you understand their causes and possible ways to avoid them.
Risk Factors for Heart Problems
Many truck drivers suffer from high stress levels. While stress is normal, if it is left unmanaged, it can lead to various heart problems. Many drivers smoke or drink too much alcohol just to manage stress associated with their job. These habits can increase blood pressure and may damage the artery walls.
Proper management of stress is important to reduce your risk of heart diseases. If you are in a stressful situation, try to maintain a positive attitude and avoid smoking or drinking. Don’t compromise your healthy lifestyle when you are under stress.
Obesity has been consistently associated with an increased risk for cardiovascular disease. This condition is caused by a sedentary lifestyle and the consumption of poor quality foods, both of which are true for many truckers. Not too many healthy food options are available at truck stops, causing drivers to consume foods that are high in sugar, trans fat and saturated fats. Not too many drivers also exercise regularly as they spend long hours on the road.
It can be a challenge to keep a healthy weight but our practical tips for truckers can help.
3. Lack of Exercise
As truckers sit for long hours each day, many find it difficult to find the time to exercise. One of the hazards of this lifestyle is that you are at risk of heart attacks and other cardiac problems.
It is possible to exercise regularly while on the road. You can check out this article for some tips how.
4. Unhealthy Diet
The food you eat may also put you at risk of heart problems including CAD. It’s important to avoid consuming foods that are high in saturated fat such as fried meat and potato chips to keep a healthy heart. Make sure to add a variety of fruits and vegetables in your diet. You can read our article 6 Ways Truckers Can Eat Healthy On the Road for more information on how to eat healthy food while on the road.
It is said that smokers are up to three times more likely to die from a heart attack and two times more likely to die from a stroke compared to non-smokers. It is undeniable that many truckers smoke. It may not be easy to get out of a smoking habit but there are people who can help. You could also join support groups designed for those who want to quit smoking.
Signs of a heart problem to watch out for
According to Mayo Clinic, there are various signs and symptoms of heart disease, depending on the condition. However, you need to see a doctor if you are experiencing chest pain, shortness of breath and fainting.
A heart disease is treatable, especially if detected early. It is a good idea to also see a doctor if you have a family history of heart disease. Your doctor can help reduce your heart disease risk.
5 Practical Ways To Have a Healthy Heart
1. Monitor your blood pressure.
High blood pressure is one of the most common but preventable causes of heart disease (only second to smoking). Anything above 130/180 is considered high and if left unchecked could badly affect your cardio health. It is best to have a yearly checkup to keep your blood pressure under control.
2. Don’t smoke.
Smoking is associated with a number of health issues including cardiovascular conditions. It increases plaque buildup in the arteries, raises blood pressure, and also contributes to blood clots. Quitting is definitely good for your heart.
3. Reduce your salt intake.
Too much salt in your diet can increase your risk of high blood pressure which in turn is a risk factor for heart disease. The American Heart Association sets the daily limit to 1,500 milligrams.
It can be difficult to lower your salt consumption while on the road since your food options are mostly processed and fast foods. Try to bring with you fresh fruits and homemade meals to help manage your salt intake.
4. Have an annual physical exam.
Many hotshot truckers would probably say they don’t have time for this, but having a yearly physical examination is a necessity. Regular checkups can help identify heart problems before they start. Those checkups can also help discover possible heart problems early when they are easier to treat. With regards to monitoring your cardio health, be sure to have tests to identify your blood pressure numbers, cholesterol and sugar levels.
5. Eat heart-healthy foods.
A healthy diet is not only good for your waistline but is also good for your heart. You can definitely reduce your risk of heart diseases by eating certain foods which include:
- Fish that are high in omega-3s such as tuna, salmon, mackerel and trout
- Berries as they are full of soluble fiber and phytonutrients that are good for the heart
- Healthy nuts such as almonds or walnuts
- Flaxseeds as they are rich in omega-3 fatty acids
- Oats is a nutrient powerhouse which is also good for the heart
- Red, yellow and orange veggies as well as green leaves
- Legumes including dried beans and lentils
- Fruits that are rich in potassium and beta-carotene such as oranges and cantaloupes
- Dark chocolate
Try to incorporate as much of these foods in your diet to boost your heart health.
Heart diseases can be life-threatening but there are achievable steps that we can take to prevent them or to reduce our risks. You can start taking the necessary steps now to boost your cardio health.