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Lowering Your Blood Pressure For The DOT Physical

by Patrick Netzel

As a follow-up to our recent article on High Blood Pressure And Its Effect On Your Driving Career we'd like to offer some advice on how you can lower your blood pressure. We will show you ways to lower your blood pressure in both the short term, like in the days leading up to your DOT physical, and the long term for your ongoing health and well being.

What Truck Drivers Need To Know About Lowering Blood Pressure

  • Truck drivers with high blood pressure can be medically certified to drive, but will have to lower their BP to under 140/90.
  • Drivers with high blood pressure who have been medically certified will be required to recertify at least once each year rather than every 2 years.
  • Blood pressure medication is an FMCSA acceptable method for BP control, but there are also lifestyle methods that will help drivers stay healthy and fit for driving.
  • Small changes in diet, weight, exercise, and sleep patterns can help lower blood pressure both short and long-term.
  • People with high blood pressure should always consult with their doctor before undergoing any extreme diet or lifestyle changes.

Lowering Your Blood Pressure Short Term: Before Your DOT Physical

There are a number of things you can do to keep your blood pressure low in the days leading up to your DOT physical. But most of these "quick fixes" are things that should generally be applied long-term also in the interest of good health. That being said, if your DOT physical is coming up and you need some tips that could lower your BP quickly, below are some ideas that may help:

  • Eat potassium-rich foods.

    Both short and long-term, potassium has been proven to help lower blood pressure. Eating foods like bananas, white beans, leafy greens, potatoes, and dried apricots could help lower blood pressure within a couple hours of eating them.

  • Drink plenty of water.

    Proper hydration is an essential part of overall health. If your body does not get enough water, it could retain a higher level of sodium (salt), which is a medically accepted cause of high blood pressure.

  • Lay off the coffee, cigarettes, and booze.

    Caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol have all been proven to increase blood pressure, especially in the short-term. Excessive alcohol use has an especially direct connection to higher blood pressure. You wouldn't expect very many truck drivers to be blatant boozers, but it is something to consider.

    While coffee and nicotine appear to have a somewhat minimal long-term effects on blood pressure in general, consumption generally will raise BP immediately and temporarily.

  • Eat fruits & vegetables, and drink beet juice.

    The health benefits of fruits & vegetables are many and varied, and they should be consumed at every opportunity. A recent study sponsored by the American Heart Association showed that foods high in nitrite/nitrate, especially beets, measurably reduced blood pressure in the short and long-term.

  • Get some sleep.

    Especially for chronically sleep-deprived truck drivers, a 45-minute nap during the day has been shown to lower blood pressure. Less sleep has been linked to increased risk of hypertension and general cardiovascular (heart) problems.

    A persons blood pressure naturally rises and falls during the day, the lowest point usually being during the middle of the night, and the highest in the middle of the afternoon.

    Struggling With High Blood Pressure? Your Sleep May Be To Blame

  • Take a deep breath, meditate.

    Whatever your method, reducing stress in general will have a positive effect on your blood pressure. The American Heart Association has released a scientific statement on alternative approaches to lowering blood pressure that acknowledges that there is some benefit to meditation as far as your heart is concerned.

    You're already alone in the truck. Close your eyes (not while you're driving!), take some deep breaths, and let the power of the universe's healing energies wash over you.

Long-term Methods Of Lowering Your Blood Pressure:

The struggle to maintain a healthy lifestyle on the road when your job depends on speed, efficiency, and the ability to sit in one place for extended periods of time is well-documented. Truck drivers who have been diagnosed with high blood pressure (hypertension), in addition to taking prescription medication, would generally do well to pay attention to certain areas of their health:

  • Exercise and lose weight.

    Exercise strengthens your heart. A stronger heart pumps more blood with less effort, decreasing the force put on your arteries so lowering blood pressure. Studies have also shown that even a modest weight loss of 5-10 pounds or so will reduce blood pressure.

    The American Heart Association recommends getting at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise, 75 minutes of vigorous exercise or a combination of both each week. Breaking it up into shorter "bursts" counts, so it doesn't have to be done in big chunks.

    Even with the notoriuosly haphazard schedule of a truck driver, ther are still plenty of ways to get excercise on the road. There are many options for both inside and outdoor activity, like weight training or running.

    Modest Weight Loss Cuts Hypertension

  • Change to a healthier diet and lay off the salt.

    Less sugar, salt, and fat, and more water and "real" foods.

    Planning ahead is a key to eating healthy on the road. Pack a cooler with fruits, vegetables, and meals. Hell, pack 2 coolers. Some drivers keep electric coolers or refrigerators in their truck with them, and there are plenty of snacks available that do not require refrigeration. A healthy diet on the road will also help your alertness and decision-making skills, making you a safer driver.

    It is estimated that 77% of a person's salt intake comes from processed or restaurant foods. These days, despite your craving for a delicious, greasy, fast-food burger, there are healthier alternatives at every turn. Most fast-food places will offer salads or chicken or some other low-fat, low-salt alternatives.

    Also drink tons of water. Not only does hydration help keep blood pressure under control, but it will help eliminate bodily waste.

  • Quit smoking.

    While smoking has not definitively been linked as a cause of long-term hypertension , every cigarette you smoke raises your blood pressure temporarily. So heavy smokers will tend to have more sustained periods of high blood pressure than non-smokers, putting additional stress on their cardiovascular system..

    Additionally, smoking is statistically the most preventable cause of premature death in the U.S., so there's that.

    Fun Fact: When you quit smoking, the nicotine is normally gone from your body in less than 7 days. If you can make it past the physical aspect of quitting, then you only have the psychological triggers to resist (smoking with coffee, after dinner, when bored, etc.).

    American Cancer Society Guide To Quitting Smoking

  • Get more and better sleep.

    As difficult as it is for a truck driver to get regular, deep sleep, studies have shown that continuous poor-quality sleep plays at least some part in raising blood pressure. A better diet and exercise can help facilitate good sleep. Other sleeping tips for truck drivers include blocking out light and sound, if possible, and planning ahead to try to sleep away from alot of activity. Investing in a higher-end mattress is generally considered well-worth the cash.

  • Reduce caffeine intake.

    While caffeine may only increase blood pressure temporarily or short-term, regular and heavy coffee drinkers will then spend extended periods of time with an elevated BP. Caffeine affects everyone differently, so if you have high blood pressure you should ask your doctor for advice on your caffeine intake.

  • Limit alcohol intake.

    Truck drivers in general, by necessity of the law, will be limited in their opportunity to partake of the boozing. Aside from that, short-term alcohol use can raise blood pressure temporarily, while repeated binge drinking can lead to long-term hypertension along with all of the other side effects of alcohol.

  • More Truck Driver Health Tips at The Healthy Trucker

CSA:

Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA)

The CSA is a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) initiative to improve large truck and bus safety and ultimately reduce crashes, injuries, and fatalities that are related to commercial motor vehicle

FMCSA:

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration

The FMCSA was established within the Department of Transportation on January 1, 2000. Their primary mission is to prevent commercial motor vehicle-related fatalities and injuries.

What Does The FMCSA Do?

  • Commercial Drivers' Licenses
  • Data and Analysis
  • Regulatory Compliance and Enforcement
  • Research and Technology
  • Safety Assistance
  • Support and Information Sharing

DOT:

Department Of Transportation

A department of the federal executive branch responsible for the national highways and for railroad and airline safety. It also manages Amtrak, the national railroad system, and the Coast Guard.

State and Federal DOT Officers are responsible for commercial vehicle enforcement. "The truck police" you could call them.

Hypertension:

Abnormally high blood pressure.

Fm:

Dispatcher, Fleet Manager, Driver Manager

The primary person a driver communicates with at his/her company. A dispatcher can play many roles, depending on the company's structure. Dispatchers may assign freight, file requests for home time, relay messages between the driver and management, inform customer service of any delays, change appointment times, and report information to the load planners.
by Brett Aquila

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