Protect Yourself and Your Fellow Officers: Tips for Heart Disease Prevention

Last week, we blogged that in 2013 14 law enforcement officers died of a heart attack. Since February is American Heart Month, it is important to understand the risk factors and symptoms of heart disease as well as highlight easy steps for prevention.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease kills 1 in 4 people in the United Sates every year; making it the leading cause of death in both men and women.

But what is heart disease? According to the American Heart Association, heart disease is a term used to describe problems relating to the heart as well as the plaque buildup on and narrowing of arteries. The narrowing of artery walls increases a person’s risk for heart attack or stroke. The term heart disease can also be used interchangeably with cardiovascular and coronary heart disease.

The risk factors and symptoms of heart disease can vary depending a person’s specific condition but common heart disease risks include:

  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • Overweight and obesity
  • Poor diet
  • Physical inactivity
  • Excessive alcohol use

While common symptoms include:

  • Chest pains
  • Shortness of breath
  • Irregular heartbeat (fast or slow)
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness and or fainting

While prevalent in the adult population, heart disease is controllable and preventable. Steps to preventing heart disease include:

  • Eating a heart healthy diet
  • Exercising regularly
  • Regular doctor’s visits to check blood pressure and cholesterol
  • Limiting alcohol use
  • Not Smoking

If you do have heart disease, early detection is key in order to easily treat it.  Because of an early detection program detailed in the January 2013 Officer Safety Corner, three officers from the Boise (ID) Police Department, unaware of their heart conditions, were able to seek treatment.

It is the IACP’s position that no injury to or death of a law enforcement professional is acceptable. The IACP Center for Officer Safety and Wellness strives to improve awareness on all aspects of officer safety, health, and wellness. If you have any best practices, resources, or recommendations please feel free to contact the Center at

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