Objective: Obesity, despite being a significant determinant of fitness for duty, is reaching epidemic levels in the workplace. Firefighters' fitness is important to their health and to public safety. Research Methods and Procedures: We examined the distribution of BMI and its association with major cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors in Massachusetts firefighters who underwent baseline (1996) and annual medical examinations through a statewide medical surveillance program over 5 years of follow-up. We also evaluated firefighters' weight change over time. Results: The mean BMI among 332 firefighters increased from 29 at baseline to 30 at the follow-up examination (2001), and the prevalence of obesity increased from 35% to 40%, respectively (p < 0.0001). In addition, the proportion of firefighters with extreme obesity increased 4-fold at follow-up (from 0.6% to 2.4%, p < 0.0001). Obese firefighters were more likely to have hypertension (p = 0.03) and low high-density lipoprotein-cholesterol (p = 0.01) at follow-up. Firefighters with extreme obesity had an average of 2.1 CVD risk factors (excluding obesity) in contrast to 1.5 CVD risk factors for normal-weight firefighters (p = 0.02). Finally, on average, normal-weight firefighters gained 1.1 pounds, whereas firefighters with BMI ≥ 35 gained 1.9 pounds per year of active duty over 5 years of follow-up. Discussion: Obesity is a major concern among firefighters and shows worsening trends over time. Periodic medical evaluations coupled with exercise and dietary guidelines are needed to address this problem, which threatens firefighters' health and may jeopardize public safety.
- Cardiovascular disease
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Medicine (miscellaneous)
- Food Science
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health