Being a firefighter is about more than sliding down a pole, holding onto a firetruck while racing to the scene of a fire, manning a high-pressure hose, rapidly climbing ladders, running up flights of stairs, breaking down doors and other obstacles with an axe, and dodging incredibly hot flames while rescuing trapped people. A lot more, which helps explain that living the life of a firefighter 24/7 is a risk-filled challenge not for the faint of heart.
The work of a firefighter is dangerous and strenuous – one that is full of perils largely unpredictable, at times shifting as quickly as the wind changes direction. The firefighter, per wikipedia.org, has been described as “a rescuer extensively trained in firefighting, primarily to extinguish hazardous fires that threaten life, property and the environment as well as to rescue people and animals from dangerous situations.”
Occupational Health and Safety
It is a profession where occupational health and safety is more than just another section in the human resources handbook. Heat injury is a constant threat – not only because of the fire’s intense heat firefighters have to fight at close quarters, but also from the heat generated inside their heavily insulated clothing because of great physical exertion. Cardiovascular issues – mainly sudden cardiac death – are the most common causes of on-duty fatalities for firefighters.
Other major health risks for firefighters are a higher incidence of cancers from factors such as excess exposure to asbestos (as well as other toxins such as carcinogenic chemicals and different kinds of radiation), with bladder cancer and prostate cancer showing up among firefighters at higher rates than the general population. Respiratory issues and sleep deprivation are among the other health obstacles faced by firefighters.
Vitamins and Supplements for Firefighters
Obviously, firefighters should be consistently working out to stay in tiptop shape to give them more of a, well, fighting chance in battling fires. A healthy diet and an assortment of carefully chosen vitamins and nutritional supplements should also be part of a firefighter’s daily regimen, with the guidance of a physician, of course. Here are some suggested vitamins and supplements:
- CoQ10. Its full name is Coenzyme Q10. Your body makes small amounts of it, per webmd.com. As a supplement it could help lower blood pressure, and studies have shown that using it in tandem with heart-failure drugs can make you feel better day to day, although you definitely want to discuss this with your physician or cardiologist before trying this at home. CoQ10 also has been known for its effectiveness in reducing unwanted side effects of statins (cholesterol-reducing drugs).
- Omega-3's. Fish oils, in particular. These can reduce your triglycerides levels (an unhealthy fat) by up to 30 percent while also working toward a healthier blood pressure level.
- Garlic. Also a popular food seasoning, garlic has been shown to slightly reduce blood pressure while also inhibiting the accumulation of plaque in your arteries.
- Iron. You can include riboflavin in this mix as well as they help your liver in breaking down toxins while overall enhancing the liver detox function, per palmerlakerecovery.com.
- Vitamin C. As an antioxidant, vitamin C has a role in neutralizing free radicals that can be harmful to healthy cells and DNA, making it useful in detoxification.
- Vitamin A. A deficiency of vitamin A has been linked to increased chances of respiratory infections, as the fat-soluble vitamin plays an important part in activating your immune system.
- Folate. Also known as vitamin B-9, per livestrong.com, folate is a water-soluble vitamin that, among other functions, helps stimulate cell reproduction. A folate deficiency can possibly have a role in the heightened risk of respiratory diseases and infections.
- Vitamin E. This fat-soluble vitamin works to guard your cell membranes from dangerous chemicals at the same time it helps activate your body’s immune system to fight off infections, to include respiratory infections, per livestrong.com.
- Vitamin C. As an antioxidant, vitamin C is effective in reducing inflammation and assisting in tissue repair following an injury.
- Vitamin D. A deficiency of vitamin D has been associated with weakened bones and muscles.
- Valerin. This homeopathic and natural relaxant is a great, non-addictive option to help with sore and cramped muscles from over-exertion or workouts.
- Zinc. This trace mineral often is linked to the immune system and helping in the recovery from cold or flu, but what many folks don’t know is that it helps regulate your body’s enzymes that work to reduce inflammation after an injury and aid in the growth of new tissue to repair the damage, per livestrong.com.
- Magnesium. This is an essential mineral that helps in the production of melatonin, the popular sleep hormone, while also alleviating muscle tension that can interfere with restful sleep, per rd.com. Sleep can be an issue especially for fulltime firefighters who are on call 24/7, never knowing when the next alarm will sound. Sleep while you can!
- Valerin. Yes, we mentioned it already, but this natural relaxant is also good for helping manage anxiety and stress and getting a good night's rest without the foggy and groggy side effects from other prescription sleep aids.
- Vitamin B-12. A B-12 deficiency can lead to the kind of neurological issues that include sleep disturbances and fatigue. Vegans, vegetarians and older adults are more susceptible to this.