Blood pressure in firefighters, police officers, and other emergency responders

Am J Hypertens. 2009 Jan;22(1):11-20. doi: 10.1038/ajh.2008.296. Epub 2008 Oct 16.


Elevated blood pressure is a major risk factor for cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. Increased risk begins in the prehypertensive range and increases further with higher pressures. The strenuous duties of emergency responders (firefighters, police officers, and emergency medical services (EMS) personnel) can interact with their personal risk profiles, including elevated blood pressure, to precipitate acute cardiovascular events. Approximately three-quarters of emergency responders have prehypertension or hypertension, a proportion which is expected to increase, based on the obesity epidemic. Elevated blood pressure is also inadequately controlled in these professionals and strongly linked to cardiovascular disease morbidity and mortality. Notably, the majority of incident cardiovascular disease events occur in responders who are initially prehypertensive or only mildly hypertensive and whose average premorbid blood pressures are in the range in which many physicians would hesitate to prescribe medications (140-146/88-92). Laws mandating public benefits for emergency responders with cardiovascular disease provide an additional rationale for aggressively controlling their blood pressure. This review provides a background on emergency responders, summarizes occupational risk factors for hypertension and the metabolic syndrome, their prevalence of elevated blood pressure, and evidence linking hypertension with adverse outcomes in these professions. Next, discrepancies between relatively outdated medical standards for emergency responders and current, evidence-based guidelines for blood pressure management in the general public are highlighted. Finally, a workplace-oriented approach for blood pressure control among emergency responders is proposed, based on the seventh report of the Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Blood Pressure / physiology*
  • Emergency Medical Services*
  • Fires*
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / epidemiology
  • Hypertension / physiopathology*
  • Occupational Diseases / epidemiology
  • Occupational Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Police*
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors