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Firefighters Have Narrower-Than-Normal Arteries, Study Finds
Date:3/13/2009

roblem because "there is some data about night workers having premature atherosclerotic events," Fonarow said. Atherosclerosis occurs when cardiovascular arteries thicken and the space for blood flow narrows.

Moriarty said that his interest in the cardiovascular risks for firefighters stemmed from having treated a number of them at clinic. Background information in his study noted that cardiovascular disease has been associated with 45 percent of the on-duty deaths of firefighters in the United States, compared with 36 percent for other lines of work. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has reported that sudden cardiac deaths are the leading cause of death in the line of duty for firefighters.

For the study, Moriarty's research team used sonography to measure lipid levels in the firefighters' carotid arteries. The study described the 77 firefighters as young, with a low prevalence of cardiovascular disease and the risk factors associated with it. But, they had "more advanced atherosclerosis than a non-firefighting population of similar age gender and race," the researchers wrote.

Fonarow said that he would like to see the study replicated by another lab with a similar group of firefighters. The 13-year difference between the average chronological age of the group and the average age of the carotid arteries is large, he said, and could have important consequences for cardiovascular health.

When there is only a 10-year difference, there is a substantial risk of cardiovascular events, Fonarow said, and "the risk of heart attack and stroke rises substantially with each additional 10 years of life."

On the Web

The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more on atherosclerosis.



SOURCES: Gregg Fonarow, M.D., professor
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