Research/studies Worker health and wellness Fire/emergency medical services

Imaging tests could help diagnose heart disease among firefighters: study

Baltimore – Traditional risk-factor assessments might not be enough to detect cardiovascular disease in firefighters, according to a study from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Researchers used CT scans and ultrasound tests on 50 Maryland firefighters to search for plaque buildup in the coronary and carotid arteries and to test for thickening of the arteries. Blood pressure, cholesterol levels and weight – which are traditional measures – also were checked, as well as family history and lifestyle factors.

The extra imaging tests were able to identify early signs of disease in two-thirds of the firefighters that otherwise would have been missed, researchers said.

Heart disease accounts for 45 percent of on-duty firefighter deaths across the nation, according to a Johns Hopkins press release, and the researchers said high stress and poor lifestyle habits may play a role.

The study was published May 1 in the American Journal of Cardiology.