Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of on-duty death among US firefighters and an important and costly cause of morbidity. Cardiovascular disease causes about 50% of firefighters’ on-duty deaths and, as in the general population, these cardiovascular events are largely due to coronary heart disease (CHD), with Sudden Cardiac Death (SCD) causing 45% of line-of-duty fatalities.
Firefighting combines situations that are both physically demanding (intense work, heavy tools and personal protective gear) and psychologically stressful (alarm response, danger) and leads to significant cardiovascular strain. This cardiovascular strain together with environmental hazards (heat stress, noise, dehydration, particulate and gaseous exposures in smoke) can trigger a CVD event in a susceptible or vulnerable individual.
Research has demonstrated that on-duty Cardiovascular disease events and heart disease retirements occur almost exclusively in firefighters with underlying heart disease, which is associated with an excess of Cardiovascular disease risk factors or a previous diagnosis of Cardiovascular disease.
Enlargement of the heart is considered a structural abnormality of the heart and appears to be Cardiac enlargement is a key predisposing step on the causal pathway that makes a firefighter susceptible to Cardiovascular disease events.
Left ventricular (LV) hypertrophy is a related term that specifically refers to enlargement of the left ventricle or the chamber of the heart responsible for pumping blood out to the circulation and vital organs.