Many people often think that the dangers of being a first responder disappear when each shift ends. Unfortunately, officers are 25 times more likely to die from a heart attack or stroke than die in the line of duty.
Being a member of law enforcement is an active, exciting, and thrilling profession, but officers are plagued with a host of health risks that – if left untreated – can prove to be more fatal than even the most dangerous day on the job.
High Pressure Situations
Members of law enforcement recognize that stress is a part of their everyday life. The high pressure situations that officers often find themselves in, however, can be the root cause of a variety of health related issues. Constant or chronic stress leads to elevated cortisol levels and increased blood pressure, both of which can cause serious cardiovascular problems if left untreated.
Aside from the physical effects of high pressure situations, members of law enforcement are also at an increased risk for mental health issues associated with frequent traumatic experiences. Officers of the law and other first responders are far more susceptible to PTSD, depression, and other mental health issues than the average person.
Police officers and other members of law enforcement don’t have the luxury of only working from 9 to 5. Over the years, working long, irregular hours certainly takes its toll. According to a professional study done by National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, police officers are four times more likely to sleep less than six hours during any given 24-hour period than the general population.
Mild sleep deprivation has severe short-term effects that nearly everyone has experienced. Symptoms such as decreased mental efficiency, slower reaction times, and inability to form lasting memories may seem innocent enough, but can lead to potentially fatal outcomes during the line of duty.
The long-term effects of irregular sleeping patterns are also incredibly detrimental. A study completed by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute concluded that long term sleep deprivation can contribute to serious health issues such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and other cardiovascular issues. It has also been proven that irregular sleeping patterns lead to poor eating habits, which can result in obesity and obesity-related health issues.
An incredibly physical job, members of law enforcement experience more than just general wear and tear when it comes to their muscles, joints, and ligaments. Stress on the knees or the back from physical activity are known as repetitive motion injuries, and are one of the leading causes of hospitalization among members of law enforcement.
Aching muscles or joints may seem like ailments that everyone experiences, but for members of law enforcement they can be a sign that something is very wrong. For police officers and first responders, minor aches and pains shouldn’t be brushed off as signs of general aging. Instead, they should be treated as warning signs.
Working in law enforcement is incredibly rewarding. It is, however, accompanied by health issues that everyone should be aware of. Recognizing these symptoms is the first step to combating them, allowing officers and first responders to have not only a long, satisfying career, but also a long, satisfying life.