Stay Away From This Vicious Cycle

Last week I began discussing a topic that is very pertinent to the fire service – heart health.

Aside from smoking, there are 5 major heart disease risk factors: obesity, high blood pressure, high blood glucose (development of type II diabetes), poor blood cholesterol (high LDL/total cholesterol and low HDL) and low aerobic fitness.

Today’s topic is obesity. Obesity leads to heart disease for two reasons: 1) it causes chronic inflammation; 2) it is the single greatest risk factor for developing high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes, which also contribute to heart disease.

How chronic inflammation is killing ussickness_pixabay

Inflammation is the body’s natural immune response, so it’s beneficial in acute conditions, like a cold. However, some behaviors end up causing an overactive immune response that results in chronic inflammation, also called “systemic” or “low grade” inflammation.

Chronic inflammation contributes to the development of fatty plaque in the arteries (atherosclerosis) which is the most common form of heart disease. It also leads to stroke, cancer, inflammatory bowel disease and other health problems.

Aside from losing weight, other things you can do to combat inflammation are: avoid smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, stress, and consuming a lot of simple carbs and saturated fats. Sleep deprivation is also a contributor (potentially because it increases stress) so try to get as much sleep as you can. Antioxidants reduce inflammation, as do omega-3 fats, so eat more fruits and vegetables, fatty fish, flaxseed and walnuts.

Obesity has other health hazards

Obesity is also a major risk factor for developing cancer, gallstones and arthritis. Since both high pressure on joints and inflammation are known to cause arthritis, it makes sense that obesity is a primary contributor. Many people who lose weight find relief from arthritis.

Although, as I’ve explained, being obese is very bad for your health and should be avoided, your weight does not completely dictate your health status. If you’re overweight but still manage to maintain a high aerobic fitness you’re much healthier than someone who is lean but not aerobically fit. I’ll dive more into this next week.

I challenge you to take the pledge to lose weight and/or work on reducing inflammation from stress, sleep deprivation and poor health habits. Please leave your name below so we can cheer you on.

If you’re not on my list to get more health tips like these, enter your name and email below.

By | 2018-06-01T07:03:25+00:00 August 13th, 2014|Uncategorized|8 Comments

About the Author:

Dr. Karlie Moore has a PhD in Exercise Science and Nutrition and specializes in firefighter health. She has conducted fitness testing on hundreds of firefighters and has created the most comprehensive online wellness program for fire departments called the FitCulture program. Dr. Moore is also married to a firefighter and so understands their lifestyle and the health challenges associated with it.


  1. Lou venezia August 13, 2014 at 2:38 pm

    Lou Venezia

  2. Andy August 13, 2014 at 3:39 pm

    Andy Campbell – Been working dropping weight after letting it creep back up again the last two years. Definitely has been a struggle to lose it again this time around. Need to sleep better & more consistently and manage stress better. Thanks for posting this & all you do.

  3. Joey Meyers August 14, 2014 at 9:39 pm

    Joey Meyers #134, Firefighter – Cockrell Hill Fire Department (Volunteer).

    Currently 240+ pounds, BF: >30%. Last pulse (resting): 80 BPM, BP: 140/100.

    I can do this, and I can become better.

  4. Karlie August 15, 2014 at 4:07 am

    Lou, Andy and Joey – you can do this!

  5. Steve February 3, 2016 at 2:35 pm

    Just started working out on and off again in July. In January I started swimming laps for 45min minimum 3 times a week. So far it has been going well I look forward to getting in the pool. Started out at 395 and Iam down to 364lbs I have a long way to go. Not sure how I let myself go like this. Just wanted to say thanks.

    • Karlie February 3, 2016 at 5:30 pm

      That is awesome Steve! I’m so happy for you, keep it up.

  6. Jesse Luce February 24, 2016 at 3:16 am

    I learned I had MS in 1998 although its initial onset was in 1974. I had suffered a severe back injury while in the service and was told I would have problems the rest of my life, so I accepted or just ignored them as they showed up. After leaving the Army in April 1977 I was talked into joining the local volunteer fire department. That led to hiring onto the a paid department as a firefighter/EMT and eventually Fire Prevention Bureau Chief which led to being hired in Alaska as an Assistant Chief. In 1998 things went south and eventually in 2002 things were bad enough I was using a walker and retired. I have been in an electric wheelchair for 6 years. i still teach at the volunteer fire dept. One of the pharmaceutical treatments I have had to endure is 1000mg liquid Prednisone infusions for 3 days in a row every time I have a exacerbation. Originally they had no side effect on me but my doctor assured me that eventually I would suffer from weight gain, which has now hit. I am limited in exercise options, as a firefighter I ran 5 plus miles a day. But I am working at shedding the pounds again and getting back into better shape. I had been 5’11 and 180lbs, bp 110/60, 60bps. Now I’m 5’10”, 258lbs, 150/80, 90bps all at rest. I am losing this or else.

    • Karlie March 1, 2016 at 10:44 pm

      Thanks for sharing your story Jesse. We’re all rooting for you!

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