Ind. Police and firefighters undergo heart and metabolic tests

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By Kim Dunlap
Tribune of Kokomo

PERU, Ind. – Several officials from the Peruvian Police Department and the Peruvian Fire Department participated in extensive drills at PFD Station 1 earlier this week.

And while there were no simulated water rescues or SWAT scenarios, the drills were meant to save lives.

According to information provided by the national organization Sigma Tactical Wellness – which focuses on advanced cardiac and metabolic testing for public safety officials – the average life expectancy of a law enforcement officer is 22 years less than that of a civilian.

But it’s not the actual emergency that’s killing first responders at such a high rate, said Sigma CEO Dr. Ben Stone.

It is a soft coronary plaque, which can lead to cardiovascular disease.

“Heart disease and first response public safety is just a borderline epidemic,” Stone told the Tribune. “We’re starting to see people in their 20s and early 30s developing soft coronary plaque, which is just not something you see in civilian professions. And unfortunately, because individuals are so young , many of them don’t qualify for the advanced cardiac diagnostics you need to identify soft plaque in the early stages of development.”

[WATCH: On-Demand Webinar: Heart Disease: The No. 1 Killer of Active and Retired Cops]

At the beginning of 2020, the assistant of PPD. Chef Matt Feller contacted Sigma Tactical Wellness after hearing about the program on a podcast.

“So, I started researching them a bit,” he said. “Here at Peru PD, we are very conscious of the health of our officers, and so we had just completed the renovation of our fitness center and were looking at ways, not only to keep our officers healthy, but also to find ways we could report how helpful the facility would be to them.”

This all ultimately led to a grant from the Dukes Healthcare Foundation, which eventually helped bring Sigma Tactical Wellness officials to Peru.

Usually, the type of testing performed on first responders in Peru takes place in a hospital setting, Stone said, costing the patient a considerable amount of money.

But this week’s tests at PFD Station 1 were completely free.

In addition to the actual cardiac and metabolic tests, first responders were also able to have one-on-one consultations with an exercise physiologist and someone in the cardiology field, Feller noted, so they could formulate a plan and a way to achieve their health goals.

“We had very good buy-in from our officers and firefighters,” he said. “We are pleased with the outcome so far. We wanted to remove virtually any barrier that would prevent our firefighters and police officers from benefiting from this care, and that is why it was so important for us to obtain this grant.”

But why are first responders so susceptible to cardiovascular disease in the first place?

It’s really a combination of factors, Stone noted.

“It’s sleep deprivation, interrupted sleep, and PTSD or stress injuries in some cases,” he said. “But it’s also a bad diet, particularly rich in fructose, and it’s extremely high professional and administrative stress. at night, which leads to high blood pressure levels, elevated heart rates and even impacts adrenal fatigue.

“We’re looking at all the vessels that feed the heart,” Stone added. “What can happen, when these guys and girls are under tremendous pressure and stress, they get this huge adrenaline rush. Blood pressure goes up, heart rate goes up. And what can happen is that it can actually stress and strain that soft plaque, and the plaque can rupture.This can eventually lead to a heart attack.

So the key is to find that soft plaque buildup early on, Stone noted, which is why testing is so valuable.

“It’s probably the most comprehensive lab you’ll ever have unless you’re in a hospital, and we’re looking for something,” he said. “If we can do things that impact longevity and improve quality of life now, that’s a game-changer for their (first responders) future.”

PPD and PFD were the first Indiana state departments to have this kind of advanced testing through Sigma Tactical Wellness, but both Feller and Stone said they hope other departments will reach out and would do the same.

“We’re very proud to be on the cutting edge of it all here in Indiana,” Feller said. “There is currently a huge push in public safety towards total well-being, so we see this as an investment. We want our employees to know that they have value, and this is one of many ways to show them.”

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(c)2022 the Kokomo Tribune

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