Occupational profile and cardiac risk: possible mechanisms and implications for professional drivers

Int J Occup Med Environ Health. 1998;11(1):37-57.


There has been at least forty empirical investigations concerning cardiovascular disease (CVD) among professional drivers (PDs). Standard cardiac risk factor status does not consistently distinguish PDs from other lower risk groups. PDs showed more than twice the overall exposure to stressful work factors compared to referents. They also showed lower maximum bicycle exercise level with a higher double product and higher diastolic blood pressure at the end of exercise compared to controls. Catecholamine excretion has been reported to be elevated during driving. Ambulatory measurements showed higher systolic and diastolic blood pressure in drivers before, during and after driving shifts. Using spectral analysis, the low to high frequency ratio was more than doubled towards the end of a 4-hour drive compared to the early one and a linear increase in 0.1 heart rate variability as a function of distance driven. Reactivity to headlight glare has been shown to roughly parallel the degree of CVD severity in PDs with IHD, essential and borderline hypertension. It was postulated that PDs with IHD form a powerful association between the exposure to glare and the stressfulness of driving and this association was resistant to extinction. The occupational medicine specialist "should have the authority to check the patient regularly in the workplace itself (to ascertain whether or not) the decision to return to work is still valid". An integrated diagnostic approach for PDs might entail using exercise stress testing, with evaluation of silent myocardial ischaemia and heart rate variability during work as well as laboratory tests which simulate aspects of their work environment, with catecholamines measured in relation to these procedures. Assessment of left ventricular mass and further evaluation of atherogenic biochemical abnormalities would be of value for further untangling the mechanisms of cardiac risk among PDs.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Automobile Driving* / psychology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Humans
  • Occupational Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Poland
  • Risk Factors
  • Stress, Psychological