Hypertension and Drivers
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health reports that 26% of truck drivers say they have hypertension. Even with high blood pressure, you may still be able to drive. Truck drivers with high blood pressure must take steps to lower it and receive more frequent DOT physicals to maintain certification.
Question: I have sent my driver for a DOT physical and the doctor has issued a three-month certification due to the blood pressure (hypertension) of my driver. Can my driver continue to be qualified by seeing the physician every three months and receiving a new medical certificate?
Answer: NO! The three-month certification for hypertension is a one-time certification. Hypertension, as defined by the regulations, is classified in three stages depending on the systolic and or diastolic blood pressure readings taken of the driver.
–Stage #1 (systolic 159-140 and or diastolic 99-90): A driver with this condition may be certified for one year. Upon re-certification, if the driver’s blood pressure is equal to or less than 140/90 could they again be certified for one year. However, if the driver’s blood pressure is greater than 140/90 and less than 160/100 at the time of re-certification, the driver is issued a one-time three-month certificate.
–Stage #2 (systolic 179-160 and or diastolic 109-100): A driver with this condition must be treated and given a one-time, three-month certificate. Once the driver has reduced the blood pressure to 140/90 or less, a one-year certificate is than issued and recertified annually.
–Stage #3 (systolic equal to or greater than 180 and or diastolic equal to or greater than 110): A driver with this condition cannot be certified until their blood pressure has been reduced to 140/90 or less. The driver is then recertified every six months.
*It should be noted that once a driver has been diagnosed with hypertension, the re-certification for Stage 1 and Stage 2 will continue to occur annually and the recertification for Stage 3 will occur every six months. The regulations, as outlined in 391.43, specifically state that if a driver has hypertension and/or is being medicated for hypertension, he or she should be recertified more frequently.
What can you do to help control hypertension?
- Eat healthy foods. Try the dietary approach to control hypertension. Eat fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy foods. Get plenty of potassium. Eat less saturated fat, trans fat and total fat. Limit the amount of sodium (salt) in your diet.
- Maintain a healthy weight. If you are overweight, losing even 5 pounds can lower your blood pressure.
- Increase physical activity. Strive for at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day.
- Limit Alcohol. Even if you are healthy, alcohol can raise your blood pressure. Drink in moderation; it is suggested no more than one drink a day for women and two a day for men.
- Do not Smoke. Tobacco injures blood vessel walls and speeds up the process of hardening of the arteries. If you smoke, get help. Ask your doctor to help you quit!
- Manage your stress. Reduce stress as much as possible. Practice healthy coping techniques, such as muscle relaxation and deep breathing. Get plenty of sleep!
Driver Health on the Road
As a driver of a commercial motor vehicle, it is hard to eat and remain healthy compared to other professions. Just the physical demands of the job make it hard to stay physically fit, such as requiring you to sit to operate the vehicle, unless you are collecting garbage. Eating while on the job also does not lend itself to a healthy lifestyle. The following will provide you with some tips to stay healthy when eating fast food.
Try selecting from the following:
- The smallest sized hamburger
- Grilled chicken sandwiches or salads
- Low-fat dressings and sauces (or none)
- Diet soft drinks or preferably, water
Try to avoid the following:
- Super-sized ANYTHING
- Fried or breaded chicken or fish; as well as chicken nuggets
- High-fat dressings and sauces
- Extra/ sides of cheese
The #1 Secret to Reduce Blood Pressure
Everything about the human body is designed to move. The heart is just one of the muscles that moves blood around the body, and the heart depends on movement of the rest of the body to help it move blood around. In other words, when you move your body, you help your heart do its job. As a commercial driver, your job is getting stuff from point A to point B as quickly as possible. So, you sit for hours on end with no movement. This forces your heart to do all the work, to pump all the blood, for all your body. Something it was never designed to do.
So, what’s the big secret to reduce blood pressure and stay out of hypertension?
Movement improves blood flow and helps to reduce blood pressure. Move any way you can, any time you can!
- Be conscious of sitting still for hours while you are driving. Find ways to make even small movements in your feet, legs, hands, arms, shoulders, and neck. The secret is in moving frequently.
- Find ways to be active outside the truck. Ten-minute activity periods, four or five times a day will go a long way to reduce blood pressure and maintain your DOT medical card at two-year intervals.
- When loading or unloading seems to be taking too long, take that time to move, stretch, and walk.
- Park at the far end of the rest stop, and walk the long way around, to get into the building.
- Do not always eat at the truck stop. Walk to a nearby restaurant to eat. Walk to a nearby grocery store and buy some healthy food to eat on the road.
- Step in and out of your truck 10 times after stopping for a meal. Or walk around your truck 10 times. Every extra step helps!
- Walk around the parking lot, up and down the rows, and find the nicest looking customized truck.
- Regular physical activity is one of the best things you can do for your heart. A healthy heart helps keep blood pressure low. Regular physical activity also helps control your weight and reduce stress. Any regular exercise like walking or biking, even 15 minutes a day will do wonders for your health.