Firefighter Tests for Cardiovascular Disease

As firefighters, we have all heard of the heart attack problem that lingers in our career field. Heart disease kills more firefighters than anything else. Sometimes we even hear of people who were in shape and then suddenly rushed to the emergency room. These individuals had no idea they had a problem and never got checked. I know most of us would like to get check out but have no idea where to start.

Below is a list of tests you can ask your doctor about if you want to make sure everything is going good inside your chest written by an exercise physiologist who flatlined twice.


  1. Heart scan (coronary calcium scan) – Heart scans, also known as coronary calcium scans, provide pictures of your coronary arteries.  These scans can show that you may have a higher risk of having a heart attack or other problems before you have any symptoms of heart disease.  Most hospitals with a comprehensive cardiac care unit perform this test.
  2. Echocardiogram – An echocardiogram is a test that uses high frequency sound waves to make pictures of your heart.  This test allows your doctor to see how your heart is beating and pumping blood and to identify various abnormalities in the heart muscle and valves.  This can typically be done as an outpatient procedure.
  3. Graded exercise test (GXT) – These are commonly referred to as exercise stress tests.  They are typically performed using a stationary bike or treadmill while monitoring heart rhythm, heart rate, and blood pressure.  These are fairly simple procedures that are typically done in doctor offices or hospitals as an outpatient procedure.
  4. Cardiac catheterization – This is a procedure to diagnose and treat some heart conditions.  A long, thin, flexible tube called a catheter is put into a blood vessel in your arm or groin and threaded to your heart.  A contrast dye visible in X-rays is injected through the catheter. X-ray images show the dye as it flows through the heart arteries. This shows where arteries are blocked. This test is done in hospitals and may require an overnight stay.


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