Truck Driver Health

Truck drivers face many health issues and more challenges than the general public. Irregular schedules, long work hours, lack of sleep, the stress and anxiety of driving in various weather conditions,smoking, poor diet and nutrition are among the challenges drivers encounter in seeking a healthy lifestyle.

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According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the average life expectancy for a commercial truck driver is only 61 years old which is 16 years lower than the national average. Smoking contributes to health problems such as heart disease, lung cancer and others. Some studies indicate that over 50% of commercial drivers are overweight or obese. The figure could even be as high as 87%. Obesity is a contributing cause of many illnesses as the extra weight strains all of your body systems. Those who are overweight or obese are at greater risk for many diseases. This includes strokes, diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular diseases, heart attacks,  and certain cancers.

Studies show that more than 80 percent of truck drivers have poor eating habits, which includes consuming typical truck stop food. These foods are often sugar-laden, fatty, high calorie foods. However, truck stops also offer alternatives which include fresh salads, lean meats and lower fat versions of popular foods. Therefore drivers can adopt healthy diets and eat healthy on the road if they choose to do so.

Choose heart healthy foods to lower the risk of heart disease. This may require that they make the effort and discipline themselves to stick with a plan. One thing drivers can do is to consume more liquids. These should be either water or unsweetened beverages. Purchase healthy foods when you get a chance to shop at a supermarket. Keep nutritious snacks in the truck and avoid chips, fries and other high calorie foods. Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Also, try eating smaller portions of food.

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Commercial truck drivers should avoid consuming soft drinks as they are not only detrimental to their health but they contribute to drivers gaining substantial amounts of excess weight. Excess weight puts drivers at risk of getting diabetes, heart disease and a host of other ailments. Healthier beverage options are readily available. The most important one of these is water. Other healthy choices include herbal teas, and fruit and vegetable juices.

Truck drivers should take the time to exercise each day. It is estimated that only 8 percent of drivers exercise. This is far less than the general population where an estimated 49 percent of adults exercise regularly. Most drivers are too tired at the end of a long work day to exercise at night so a morning exercise plan would probably work better. Also, it is best to avoid exercising at night because late exercise often interferes with sleep. It is very important to get sufficient sleep and be well rested before starting out the next day because good quality sleep is important to the overall health and wellness of truck drivers.

Most drivers could greatly benefit from thirty minutes of exercise per day. This can be a walk around the truck stop, push-ups, crunches or whatever exercise can be done with the time, space and equipment that may be available at the truck stop. Many truck stops also have fitness centers which provide other options. Drivers can also keep
The following cancers are associated with obesity:

  • Esophagus
  • Pancreas
  • Breast
  • Kidney
  • Endometrium (lining of the uterus)
  • Colon and rectum
  • Thyroid
  • Gallbladder

Hypertension or high blood pressure rates are high among truck drivers. “Blood pressure” is defined as the force of blood pushing against the walls of the arteries as the heart pumps blood. Damage to the body can occur if the pressure stays high for an extended period of time. High blood pressure often has no symptoms which is why it is often referred to as “the silent killer.” High blood pressure increases your chances of having a stroke, heart attack, kidney disease and many others. Poor diets, overweight and obesity are all factors which contribute to the cause of high blood pressure. Studies show that being obese more than doubles your chances of developing high blood pressure. Other factors which have been associated with hypertension include smoking, diabetes, stress, lack of physical activity and chronic alcohol consumption. High blood pressure could also prevent you from passing the D.O.T. physical exam.

Heart Disease
is more prevalent among overweight individuals and smokers. An excess of 20 pounds of weight doubles your risk of heart disease.

Gallbladder disease
is more prevalent among overweight individuals because the incidence of gallstones increases as a person’s weight increases.

Respiratory problems
are also linked to obesity. Some studies suggest that obesity is linked to sleep apnea in truck drivers which increases the risk of motor vehicle accidents.

Osteoarthritis
is a painful disease which causes the bone and cartilage in the joints to degenerate.
Excess weight contributes to this condition. Losing the excess weight decreases the odds of getting arthritis.

Psychological and social effects
are also associated with overweight and obese people because many people often hold thin people in higher esteem.

An estimated 87 percent of crashes involving truck drivers are due in some degree from driver error. Some of these cases involve the driver having a heart attack, falling asleep at the wheel, being in a diabetic shock, sleep apnea or some other health problem. The majority of these accidents could possibly have been prevented if the drivers had been in better health and had sufficient sleep.

It is well known that better driver health leads to greater safety behind the wheel and drivers feel better when they are healthy. Make the choice to be as healthy as you can both for yourself and for the safety of others as well.

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