15 Firefighters compete for better heart health

By Jess Gomez

They battle fires, save lives and make our communities safe. Now, 15 firefighters from seven Salt Lake County fire agencies will be put to the ultimate test: A three-month challenge to see who can make the most improvements in their heart health and win the 2014 My Heart Challenge.

Meet-the-2014-My-Heart-Challenge-Contestants

Firefighters from Murray City, Salt Lake City, Sandy City, South Salt Lake, Unified Fire Authority, West Jordan and West Valley City are participating in the 2014 My Heart Challenge at Intermountain Medical Center. The three-month challenge began with a weigh-in ceremony and a heart-healthy breakfast on Thursday, March 13 and will conclude in late June. 

Firefighters have a very demanding lifestyle. There's a lot of stress and shift work, which puts them at increased risk for heart disease. Learning how to manage stress, incorporate heart-healthy meals into their daily schedules and finding time for regular exercise is key to improving their health.

"The number one risk for firefighters is not a work-place accident," said Brent Muhlestein, MD, cardiologist from the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute. "Their greatest risk is having a heart attack while on the job. Our goal with the My Heart Challenge program is to help prevent that from happening. With some work and commitment, these firefighters and their colleagues can reduce their risk of that happening."

The Challenge is designed to not only to help the firefighters enhance their heart health and reduce their risk of heart attack and heart disease, but to have them spread that message to their colleagues in their fire stations and throughout their communities. 

During the kick-off breakfast, many of the firefighters shared their excitement as the Challenge got underway. 

"I signed up for the My Heart Challenge because I wanted to get more heart healthy, and I really want to stick around for a while," said Terry Addison, Battalion Chief for the South Salt Lake Fire Department. 

Bruce Cline, Fire Chief for the Sandy City Fire Department, agreed. "I plan to lose some weight and set an example for all the other firefighters here in Sandy," he said. "I also want to show that if the chief can do it, anyone can do it."

"I signed up for the My Heart Challenge because my dad had several heart attacks and my mom's side of the family has high blood pressure, so I want to do what I can to help me keep my heart healthy," said Sharee Rosqvist, firefighter and paramedic with the West Jordan Fire Department.

Chris Kinzel, a captain with the West Jordan Fire Department, said he's participating with his granddaughters in mind.  "I signed up for the challenge because I have a big heart, but it's not working very well. I have three granddaughters I like to take on walks, and they run circles around me. It's getting to be that grandpa's getting old and fat. I can't help the old, but I sure can help the fat."

During the 14-week Challenge, firefighters will work with a team from the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute that includes exercise specialists, dietitians and heart experts to develop individualized plans to help them make positive, health-improving changes to their lives. Two awards will be given at the end of the Challenge and each winner will receive $1,000 to use toward purchasing wellness equipment for his or her fire station.

For the first time, there is also a play-at-home version of the My Heart Challenge. The first 50 people to register on the Fox 13 News website will play from home. Visit Fox13Now.com for all the detail and to register if you are interested in being one of the Play at Home contestants.

Follow the progress of the 15 firefighters competing in the 2014 My Heart Challenge by following Intermountain Medical Center on Facebook.