Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Heart Disease Health Center

Font Size

Firefighter Killer: Heart Disease

Heart Disease Is Firefighters' Biggest On-Duty Death Risk
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

March 21, 2007 -- Heart disease kills more on-duty firefighters than anything else -- and it is definitely linked to emergency duties, a Harvard study shows.

Most people think firefighters' biggest death threats are fires and collapsing buildings. But over the last 30 years it's been shown that 45% of firefighters' on-duty deaths come from heart disease.

Firefighters, however, don't have a higher rate of heart deaths than do people in other jobs. So are these deaths really related to the heroic service firefighters provide?

Yes, find Harvard researcher Stefanos N. Kales, MD, MPH, and colleagues. Kales' team analyzed data on all firefighter deaths between 1994 and 2004, except those linked to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. They also looked at how a representative sample of firefighters spend their time.

"What our study is showing is the majority of on-duty heart deaths in firefighters are work related and are precipitated by physical and toxic factors," Kales tells WebMD.

The researchers found that, compared with when they perform nonemergency duties:

  • Firefighters are 12 to 136 times more likely to die of heart disease when putting out a fire.
  • Firefighters are 3 to 14 times more likely to die of heart disease while responding to an alarm.
  • Firefighters are 2 to 10.5 times more likely to die of heart disease while returning from an alarm.
  • Firefighters are 3 to 7 times more likely to die of heart disease during physical training.

The findings appear in the March 22 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine.

1 | 2 | 3

Today on WebMD

x-ray of human heart
A visual guide.
atrial fibrillation
Symptoms and causes.
heart rate graph
10 things to never do.
heart rate
Get the facts.
empty football helmet
red wine
eating blueberries
Simple Steps to Lower Cholesterol
Inside A Heart Attack
Omega 3 Sources
Salt Shockers
lowering blood pressure