During an exercise simulating retrieval of a victim from a burning two-story building, 19 healthy, non-smoking firefighters picked randomly, were exposed to extreme heat reaching 400°C. Their vitals were monitored, particularly heart rate, rhythm as well as strength and timing of electrical impulses passing through each part of the heart. Furthermore heart rate and blood pressure were monitored for 30 minutes before the exercises and for 24 hours following.
Results showed evidence that can trigger heart attack in people at risk. Blood diversion to the skin in order to help the body cool down was evident, as well as lower blood pressure resulting from dehydration. An increase in potential blood clotting was assessed as a body’s response to both extreme heat exposure and physical strain.
It should be taken into consideration that cardiovascular events are the leading cause of death of on-duty firefighters in the US, nearly to 45%. This exercise highlighted the unique stress the firefighters’ heart muscle is exposed to and emphasized on the necessity of additional evaluation tests such as exercise stress testing or echocardiography to detect atherosclerosis or cardiac enlargement.
Researchers advise anyone who is exercising in extremely high temperatures, to keep well hydrated and allow time to cool down and regain normal body functions.