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ABCs for Fit Firefighters
The Hopkins Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease reaches out to a high-health-risk profession.

blank Chef Marcus Olson, of the Brass Elephant; Dominique Ashen, nurse practitioner; and firefighter Robert Colaianni discuss healthy food choices.
Chef Marcus Olson, of the Brass Elephant; Dominique Ashen, nurse practitioner; and firefighter Robert Colaianni discuss healthy food choices.

Firefighter Harry Jackson has shed 40 pounds in the past year, primarily by working out and eliminating salt from his diet. Thanks to a recent Baltimore City health, wellness and fitness initiative that Johns Hopkins is supporting, Jackson has learned to make healthier lifestyle choices, helping him to better manage his stressful, intensely physical duties.

Dominique Ashen, a certified registered nurse practitioner with the Johns Hopkins Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease, is on a mission to help people like Jackson. Since Mayor Sheila Dixon launched “Be Fit Baltimore” earlier this spring, Ashen has been educating community members about steps they can take to reduce their risk for cardiovascular disease.

To help firefighters respond to the mayor’s specific challenge to them to become more fit in 2009, Chef Marcus Olson, of the Brass Elephant, and Baltimore City Firefighters Chief Kevin Cartwright developed a program to promote healthy food choices and preparation. Ashen is making the rounds with them at the city’s 41 firehouses to share the ABCs of Prevention of Heart Disease, an easy-to-follow guide for patients and providers, developed by center Director Roger Blumenthal.

The goal of the program, which also includes an exercise portion, is for firefighters to influence each other’s habits and those of their families through such actions as getting regular blood pressure and cholesterol screenings.

“Heart disease is the number one killer of men and women,” an enthusiastic Ashen recently told a group of about 10 firefighters and medics at the fire station in the Mt. Washington area. Though studies to determine whether firefighters suffer a higher incidence of heart disease are inconclusive, research suggests that it is the leading cause of on-the-job death for firefighters.

“You have to reduce your risk factors—blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes and smoking—and know what you can do to minimize them,” said Ashen.

Olson, whose father and grandfather were volunteer firefighters, shared tips on preparing tasty meals with fewer calories and less saturated fat. Because children respect men and women in the profession, he noted, firefighters have an opportunity to influence young people to lead healthy lifestyles.

The firefighters pledged to practice the heart-healthy habits and joked that with the departure of one comrade who always cooked fat-laden, high-calorie meals, they have a better chance for success.


                           

–Janet Anderson

 

 

Johns Hopkins Medicine

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