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Very Long (> 48 hours) Shifts and Cardiovascular Strain in Firefighters: a Theoretical Framework.

  • Author(s): Choi, Bongkyoo;
  • Schnall, Peter L;
  • Dobson, Marnie;
  • Garcia-Rivas, Javier;
  • Kim, Hyoungryoul;
  • Zaldivar, Frank;
  • Israel, Leslie;
  • Baker, Dean
  • et al.

Shift work and overtime have been implicated as important work-related risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD). Many firefighters who contractually work on a 24-hr work schedule, often do overtime (additional 24-hr shifts) which can result in working multiple, consecutive 24-hr shifts. Very little research has been conducted on firefighters at work that examines the impact of performing consecutive 24-hr shifts on cardiovascular physiology. Also, there have been no standard field methods for assessing in firefighters the cardiovascular changes that result from 24-hr shifts, what we call "cardiovascular strain". The objective of this study, as the first step toward elucidating the role of very long (> 48 hrs) shifts in the development of CVD in firefighters, is to develop and describe a theoretical framework for studying cardiovascular strain in firefighters on very long shifts (i.e., > 2 consecutive 24-hr shifts). The developed theoretical framework was built on an extensive literature review, our recently completed studies with firefighters in Southern California, e-mail and discussions with several firefighters on their experiences of consecutive shifts, and our recently conducted feasibility study in a small group of firefighters of several ambulatory cardiovascular strain biomarkers (heart rate, heart rate variability, blood pressure, salivary cortisol, and salivary C-reactive protein). The theoretical framework developed in this study will facilitate future field studies on consecutive 24-hr shifts and cardiovascular health in firefighters. Also it will increase our understanding of the mechanisms by which shift work or long work hours can affect CVD, particularly through CVD biological risk factors, and thereby inform policy about sustainable work and rest schedules for firefighters.

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