Firefighters From around the Salt Lake Valley compete in the 2014 My Heart Challenge & Learn How to Improve their Heart Health

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: who will improve their heart health the most to win the 2014 My Heart Challenge? 

Firefighters from Murray City, Salt Lake City, Sandy City, South Salt Lake, Unified Fire Authority, West Jordan and West Valley City kicked off the 100-day My Heart Challenge at Intermountain Medical Center with a weigh-in ceremony and a heart-healthy breakfast. 

Firefighters have demanding lifestyles. 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. 

At the kick-off ceremony, the fire fighters learned what it takes to improve their heart health, lose weight and better manage stress. 

"The number one risk for firefighters is not a work-place accident," Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute cardiologist Brent Muhlestein, MD, told the firefighters. "Your 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 on your part, you can reduce your risk of that happening, as well." 

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 our first year, mayors from throughout the Salt Lake Valley participated in the Challenge," said Bryant Larsen, director of communications for the Urban Central Region. "Last year it was elementary school principals, and this year it's firefighters. An important element of the My Heart Challenge is that participants educate others around them so there's a ripple effect throughout our communities. We want everyone as heart healthy as possible." 

Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute, SelectHealth and Fox 13 News are sponsors of the 2104 My Heart Challenge. 

Firefighters say they are excited to be participating in the Challenge and look forward to improving their health. 

"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, agrees. "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. Firefighters will be given a comprehensive set of heart tests at the beginning of the Challenge to establish a baseline. The same tests will be repeated at the end of the 14 weeks so firefighters can measure their personal progress. 

Winning firefighters will receive $1,000 to use toward purchasing wellness equipment for his or her fire station. 

For the first time, there will be 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. The link is: 

"We're excited for this year's My Heart Challenge, and for the opportunity to work with men and women who put their lives on the line each day to keep us safe," said David Grauer, administrator of Intermountain Medical Center. "It's a wonderful for us to serve our community." 

A big thanks goes to the staff of the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute for their help in testing the firefighters, developing the point system and working with the contestants to improve their health.
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