Truck drivers and social service workers have something in common: The people who work in these two occupations are the least likely to be heart healthy, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In the study, researchers looked at seven measures of heart health in more than 66,000 employees across 22 occupations in 21 states. To determine how heart healthy people were, the researchers counted up how many of the American Heart Association's seven "ideal" metrics of heart health each person met: whether they refrained from smoking, were physically active, had normal blood pressure and normal blood glucose, were an ideal weight, registered normal cholesterol levels and ate a healthy diet.
Overall, they found that 3.5 percent of all workers met all seven of the heart-healthy metrics according to the report, published today (Aug. 11). Meeting six or seven of these metrics is associated with a lower risk of dying of heart disease, compared with people who meet none or one, according to the researchers. [Beyond Vegetables and Exercise: 5 Ways to Be Heart Healthy]
They also found that 9.6 percent of all workers met just two or fewer of the health metrics. But among community employees and social services employees, 14.6 percent met two or fewer of the heart-healthy metrics, and among those who worked in transportation or "material moving," 14.3 percent met two or fewer of the metrics, the researchers found. In other words, these occupations were the least likely to be heart healthy.
On the other hand, people who worked in farming, forestry or fishing, as well as those in a broad category that included jobs in arts, design, entertainment, sports and the media, had lower rates of hitting two or fewer of the health metrics, with 5 percent and 5.9 percent, respectively, the researchers found. The data in the report about the people's behavior's came from the CDC's 2013 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey. Other data, such as blood pressure and cholesterol measurements, were separately self-reported by the participants.
The researchers also looked at each of the heart-healthy metrics on their own.
People who worked in transportation and material moving occupations were the least likely to get enough physical activity, and have a normal blood pressure and a normal BMI, the researchers found. A previous study found that 61 percent of long-haul truck drivers had two or more risk factors for heart disease, the researchers wrote.
In addition, food preparation and serving employees were the most likely to be smokers, computer and math employees were the most likely to have a "not ideal" cholesterol score, and personal care and service employees were the most likely to have a "not ideal" blood glucose score, the researchers found.
And while farming, forestry and fishing employees were more likely to meet the healthy metrics than other groups, they didn't do well with diet, with 84.3 percent reporting a "not ideal" diet, according to the report.
The AHA's heart-healthy metrics are considered modifiable, the researchers wrote. In other words, through lifestyle changes, people should be able to change their scores. However, certain occupations may make it more difficult to make certain lifestyle changes, the researchers noted.
Hopefully, the findings from the new study can be used by states and private companies to improve employees' heart health at work, the researchers wrote.