We all want to live long into our golden years to enjoy watching our kids and friends grow older. Longevity depends a little bit on genetics and a lot on several important factors, including diet, exercise, stress and disease prevention and management. To get a better handle on your health and understand the importance of regular checkups, we’ve listed five critical health concerns that all truckers should be concerned about now:
- Skin cancer. More than 90% of skin cancer is found on body parts that get too much sun exposure. Sunburns and prolonged exposure to the sun, moles, and a history of skin cancer in the female are all factors that predispose you to skin cancer. Because truck drivers get a lot of sun on one side of their face and arm, it’s important to be vigilant about applying sunscreen and wearing long-sleeved shirts. When riding in your truck or spending any amount of time under the sun, always apply sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or more and get abnormal moles checked out about twice a year.
- Obesity. You are considered obese if you have a body mass index over 30, according to the CDC. Your heart has to work extremely hard to pump blood to all your organs if you are obese. Consuming a big meal means even more work, as the heart struggles to pump enough blood to the gut to break down such a heavy load. Obesity causes every household disease in the book – high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, sleep apnea, joint problems, cancer, and depression. Truckers are at high risk for obesity because of a sedentary lifestyle and lack of healthy food options on the road. Doctors at Stanford Hospital recommend eating a low-calorie diet (1,500-1,800 calories per day) that includes fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, along with a diet low in saturated fats. They also recommend exercising 30 minutes a day and joining a support group to provide encouragement and reinforcement.
- Sleep apnea. This deadly problem is often called a silent killer, because you may not even be aware that it’s happening. Obstructive sleep apnea is a potentially serious disorder that occurs when your throat muscles relax and block your airway during your sleep, leading to several seconds of oxygen deprivation. Sleep apnea can cause sleep deprivation, chest pain, high blood pressure, headaches, and excessive daytime sleepiness, according to the Mayo Clinic. Obesity and age are both high risk factors for developing the disorder. Smoking only makes this condition even more deadly. Treatments for sleep apnea may involve lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking or losing weight, or they can include being fitted for an oral mouthpiece or breathing device. A CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) fits over your mouth and nose and gently blows air into your airway to keep it open at night.
- High blood pressure. Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is also called a silent killer because many people aren’t even aware they have it. Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of the arteries. As it rises, it can turn into hypertension, which is blood pressure measuring 140/90 and above. High BP can lead to coronary artery disease, where the vessels around the heart can’t get enough blood to the most important organ in our body – the ticker. High blood pressure can also seriously damage kidneys, leading eventually to kidney failure, and if pressures get high enough, the risk of stroke climbs as well. If you have high blood pressure, you should take your blood pressure at least once a day using a manual device. Compliance with medication is essential, because even if you feel better, you should never stop taking your blood pressure pills. Many truckers report they have high blood pressure because of the quality of food they consume and a lack of areas to exercise. Get out of your truck and get your heart pumping for at least 30 minutes a day. Limit salt, alcohol, and caffeine in your diet, along with saturated fats. And always keep up with doctors’ appointments.
- Heart attacks. More than one million Americans have a heart attack each year. Their survival depends on how much damage to the heart has been done and if they were able to reach help in time. A heart attack occurs when clots or plaque block blood flow to the coronary arteries, which oxygenate your heart muscle. Symptoms of a heart attack include squeezing pain or pressure felt in the chest or arms, pain or discomfort radiating from the jaw down to the arms, sweating, nausea, shortness of breath, and pain that isn’t relieved by rest. You must keep your heart healthy to prevent heart attacks. That means eating fruits and vegetables and drinking plenty of water. Always drink a full glass of water before bed and never go to bed after eating a full, rich meal. Stay away from saturated fats and alcohol, quit smoking, and manage your high blood pressure with medication, if you have this. Maintaining an ideal body weight and managing stress are two more ways you can help prevent heart attacks.
What are some ways you manage your health on the road? Let us know in the comments!