Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. according to the CDC, and for truck drivers, who spend hours sitting behind a wheel, inactivity and lack of exercise can create hazardous conditions for your heart. Before you can make the right steps toward a healthy lifestyle, you need to understand the risk factors for heart disease.
Here are some of the risk factors linking truck drivers and heart attacks:
- Male 45 or older
- Female 55 or older
- Not enough physical activity
- Smoking (including exposure to secondhand smoke)
- Illegal drug use
- Rheumatoid arthritis or another autoimmune illness
- High blood pressure
- High blood cholesterol
- Family history of heart attacks
While there are some factors, such as a family history including heart conditions, that are outside of your control, there is much that a driver can control to stay heart healthy. Factors such as eating right, exercising and keeping stress levels low can reduce the risk of a heart attack and allow truck drivers to stay in the driver’s seat to earn a respectable living in the trucking industry.
Here are some tips to help you stay heart healthy:
- Eating habits: High-calorie foods are everywhere on the road. One way to get more heart-healthy food in your diet is to keep a mini-fridge in your rig so you can bring more heart-friendly foods from home. As for eating out, aim to substitute fries with green beans, broccoli or other vegetables. Also, drink water or tea as an alternative to full-calorie sodas with limited nutritional value.
- Physical activity: Exercise helps lots of things, not just heart health. It can improve flexibility, blood circulation and back pain in truck drivers. American Heart Association guidelines call for 75 minutes of intense exercise per week (running, for example) or 150 minutes of moderate exercise (walking, for example). If you go the moderate route, that breaks down to just 30 minutes of walk time five days per week. You can get that in by doing short walks before and after you are on the road, and during your breaks.
- Smoking: It’s tough to quit smoking, often more so than to quit eating certain types of food. The good news: getting started is sometimes the hardest part. After some time (say, three months), your habits may be noticeably healthier. If all else fails, at least try to cut back; you’ll not only help your overall heart health, you’ll also save money when you purchase fewer cigarettes.
- Stress: Stress can be a normal part of life, but if not managed properly, it can be very harmful to your heart. Try to find ways to manage your stress, such as deep breathing, meditation, or yoga. You can also try to reduce your stress by taking breaks, listening to music, or talking to a friend.
Remember, your health is important, and taking care of your heart is essential to living a long and healthy life. Also check out Healthy Truck for more health tips!