Over the past few years I have read about legislation in many states beginning to cover heart disease, heart attacks and hypertension.  I noted some states were more liberal in their interpretation than others.  For example in Florida, The Presumptive Disability Law for public officers states,

Any condition or impairment of health of any Florida state, municipal, county, port authority, special tax district, or fire control district fire fighter or any law enforcement officer or correctional officer as defined in s. 943.10(1), (2), or (3) caused by tuberculosis, heart disease, or hypertension resulting in total or partial disability or death shall be presumed to have been accidental and to have been suffered in the line of duty unless the contrary be shown by competent evidence.

I have ultimate respect for fire fighters and all other first responders, however I wondered about the rationale for some of these laws, particularly the most liberal interpretations of the law.  I read an article that really helped to clarify for me the rationale for these laws.

HealthDay News posted an article on MedLine Plus  — Intense heat and strain appear to put firefighters at a greater risk of heart attack, a new study finds.

The physical demands of firefighting may trigger the formation of blood clots and impair blood vessel function — two factors associated with increased risk of heart attack and stroke, researchers in Scotland report.

Their report helps explain why heart disease is the leading cause of death among “the bravest,” as they’re known. In the United States, heart disease accounts for nearly half of annual on-duty firefighter fatalities, most of them from heart attack, said Dr. Nicholas Mills, lead researcher on the study. Dr. Mills is chair of cardiology at the University of Edinburgh.

The study simulated fire exercises, in an attempt to quantify the physiological changes firefighters undergo as they rescue a victim from a scorching building.  They discovered the core body temperature increases and increases in hemoglobin [the protein molecule in red blood cells that helps blood clot] occur as the body loses water and the blood gets more concentrated.

The findings should encourage medical practitioners to pay closer attention to this group’s unique needs, added Kales, who wrote an editorial about the study. Both appear in the April 4 issue of Circulation.

This might include keeping firefighters with signs of existing heart disease from participating in strenuous emergency duties, Kales noted.  The article discussed the fact that firefighters wear 40 to 50 pounds of gear which increases their workload and doesn’t allow them to decrease their body temperature.

The study authors suggested that some of these health risks can be reduced inexpensively with limited heat exposure, cooling and rehydration.