Many truckers spend most of their daily life on the road. This means we get to see more of the world and enjoy a rewarding career. It also means that we spend a large portion of our lives in a seated position with minimal movement. This makes it difficult to keep our health in good order.
The nature of what we do can put us at risk for a variety of health concerns that are more specific to truck drivers. These 3 health problems are a threat, but there’s things you can do to combat them. Find out what they are and how you can take steps to protect your body.
According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 69% of long-haul truck drivers are considered obese and 61% report having two or more of the following health problems: hypertension, obesity, smoking, high cholestorol, no physical activity, and less than 6 hours of sleep per 24 hour period. These numbers are roughly double that of the average adult working population. Check out the full article here.
A body mass index of over 30 qualifies a person as being obese. This puts extra strain on your cardiovascular system as it has to work harder to properly pump blood to all of these tissues and organs in your body. It also causes premature wear on most of the joints in the human body, and can even cause sleep apnea.
What can truckers do to offset the risks and effects of obesity? Because of our sedentary lifestyle, it can be harder to stay fit than most people. However, there are some things we can do.
- Stay mobile – Take advantage of any chance you get to walk around and maintain blood flow. Even if it’s 10 minutes at every stop you make, it can help keep your body flexible and burn extra calories.
- Control calorie intake – While everyone’s calorie needs are different, tracking your food can be helpful in keeping you accountable. It’s best to talk with your doctor, or a certified personal trainer about what you should aim for in terms of daily calorie goals. They may make varying recommendations based on your current weight and activity level.
- Consider nutrition value – As you plan out your meals, remember that not all calories are created equal. 500 calories of ice cream has no nutritional value, but 100 calories of fresh vegetables can provide a day’s worth of certain vitamins and minerals. Consuming a low carb diet that’s high in protein, fiber, and healthy fats can be extremely beneficial and doesn’t have to be unpleasant.
- Exercise – Try to exercise every day, or create a weekend workout plan. If you can fit even 45 minutes a day into your schedule, you can drastically reduce aches, pains, and risk of obesity. Some may have a hard time getting into a gym every day. But even a 3 day plan can be effective.
High blood pressure is not just a health concern, but also a livelihood issue. It can disqualify you from passing your DOT medical exam. Unfortunately, there are some drivers whose careers have been put in serious jeopardy over the high blood pressure.
(To learn how high blood pressure can affect your CDL eligibility, this helpful article gives the details and explains how a TeamCME examiner can help.)
Hypertension can harden your arteries and cause them to become thick. This leads to a buildup of plaque and can eventually create a serious restriction to blood flow. Those who have high blood pressure are at a higher risk of having a heart attack or developing other heart diseases.
Things to look out for:
- Changes in vision
- Shortness of breath
- Pounding sensation in your neck, chest, or ears
- Chest pains
- Irregular fatigue
- Blood in urine
If you experience any of these symptoms, please speak with your doctor right away as they can be signs of a serious problem.
Blood pressure numbers that exceed 140/90 can lead to the disqualification of a driver. When a driver’s numbers hit this point, they will be given a temporary certification and be required to bring their numbers down below this threshold within a specified period of time, or be disqualified from driving.
Natural ways drivers can prevent high blood pressure:
- Walk for at least 30 minutes a day. Try to get out of your truck at least once and walk around. It will help get your heart rate up and even reduce stress.
- Reduce alcohol intake as much as possible. More than one drink per day can increase your risk for hypertension.
- Cut your sodium intake. Try to avoid processed foods when possible. It’s hard while on the road to eat a diet that includes fresh vegetables and unprocessed foods. But even substituting one healthy meal a day can make a difference.
- Manage stress effectively. When you’re stressed, it causes your body to be in a constant “fight or flight” state. The fight-or-flight response is necessary in life threatening situations because it causes your body to produce adrenaline, speed up the heart rate, and constrict blood vessels. However, it’s not meant to be a prolonged condition. If you have stressful things in your life, do what you can to process them rationally. Talk to someone about them and seek any help you may need.
- Burn fat! We’ve talked about diet and exercise. Do what you can to keep your weight at a healthy level. That will help keep your blood pressure at healthy levels.
The majority of skin cancer is found in places where the body receives excessive sunlight. Places like the shoulders, nose, neck, ears, and arms are prone to developing cancerous growths.
As drivers, the left side of our body sees even more sun than usual. Even on overcast days, it’s important to remember to wear sunscreen on your arms and face. It may be more convenient to wear long sleeves, depending on the climate where you’re working.
Choose a sunscreen that is “broad-spectrum” or “multi-spectrum.” This means that it can block out both UVB and UVA rays offering optimal protection against cancer causing sunlight. We recommend an SPF 90 as it allows you to go longer without reapplying a new layer.
Make sure that you speak with your doctor about any moles or skin growths on your body. They will help you determine if they need to be removed. It’s important to do this as soon as possible to prevent any skin cancer from spreading over time.
As we head into the cooler fall and winter months, it’s still very important to realize that sun damage can still occur. Don’t forget to cover up!
Our career as drivers presents a unique set of risks. But we can take steps to work around them and enjoy a long healthy life with our loved ones!
If you have health concerns that might interfere with your eligibility to obtain a CDL, please locate the nearest TeamCME member examiner. They will help guide you through the process of passing your DOT medical exam and continuing to earn a living.