HEART ATTACKS: A GROWING COP KILLER
By Sgt. Mark St.Hilaire and Ret. Col. Robert “Coach” Lindsey
Recently, I had a bi-weekly telephone call with Bob “Coach” Lindsey. Many LEOs know Coach as a well-known trainer, mentor and visionary within the corrections and law enforcement field. He is the Patriarch of many professional organizations like the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA). When Coach raises his hand and graciously requests to add his thoughts in a discussion, everyone carefully listens to his wisdom of experience and his passion.
Coach opened our conversation with a sad commentary that we have lost our 13th LEO to an on-duty heart attack this year, the first week of November. In his southern Louisianan voice he asked me if we could do something together to address this growing cop killer. So here we are writing this article together for all of you as Coach humbly refers, “Our Brothers and Sisters of the Shield”.
During the 2014 ILEETA Conference in Chicago, Coach and I were part of a L.E. Health and Wellness Project along with Retired Westminster, Colorado Senior Officer John Marx and Retired Tulsa, Oklahoma Sergeant Mark Sherwood. With the in-put of over 75 L.E. Trainers affiliated with ILEETA world-wide and many other public safety professionals, we have been developing a basic wellness curriculum for any law enforcement trainer to help educate and guide our peers from the real dangers facing law enforcement today. Part of our research indicates that serious health issues are a major factor in LEO deaths and disability both on and off duty. As a profession we have worked hard on our defensive officer survival skills from the criminal element that our own poor health and well-being are now contributing to the top 5 reasons of L.E. line of duty deaths.
Since 2008, the Officer-Down Memorial Page has indicated that heart attacks have been between the 3rd and the 5th cause of L.O.D. deaths in U.S. Law Enforcement. (#1 killer of Firefighters).
In 2013, U.S. Law Enforcement lost 111 to L.O.D. deaths (lowest since 1959):
- Vehicle crashes
- Heart Attacks
What we ask you now is to consider this:
HOW MANY OFF DUTY HEART ATTACKS HAVE TAKEN OUR PEERS OR DISABLED THEM?
We are asking you as LEOs to be willing to change your lifestyle if necessary. We’re all smart, conscientious and reasonable adults who may work in a large city, a rural area and many places in between. The fact of the matter is that our health and fitness is vital for survival and performing our duties efficiently. Other people are depending on us.
Just like wearing your seatbelt and watching your speed which reduces the chance of a crash or wearing your ballistic body armor that increases your chances for survival from a gunshot or a stabbing, getting a health checkup, eating good whole foods and participating in job specific physical exercise increases your chance against heart disease, stroke, injury and other illnesses.
Coach and I testify before you as individuals whose own lives were out of control as LEOs. We share with you our past experiences of being grossly overweight trying to do this job. Somehow we had the courage to look at ourselves (and by our loved ones) that we needed to change. Today we are both maintaining healthy bodies, minds and spirits and we are willing to help anyone who wants to get well.
We know what you’re thinking: There are no guarantees against a sudden illness while we agree that if you look at the real odds, it is much better to take some preventative measures toward an improved and healthy lifestyle.
We want to highlight 10 tips recommended by Dr. Gordon A. Ewy M.D. who is the Director Emeritus of the University of Arizona: Saver Heart Center.
- Take responsibility for your health.
- Know your health risks.
- Don’t smoke or expose yourself to second-hand smoke.
- Maintain a healthy blood pressure.
- Monitor your cholesterol.
- Limit your calorie intake.
- Make exercise a daily habit.
- Pick your supplements carefully.
- Reduce stress.
- Stay informed as science changes.
In addition, Coach and I want to encourage you as LEOs to:
- Get proper sleep (7-8 hours a day).
- Develop your personal relationships with family and others outside of L.E.
- Do something besides work (hobby, relax, spiritual worship).
- Seek peer assistance, visit your chaplain or seek professional counseling to maintain your emotional balance and stress management.
We are asking each of you to honestly look within yourself and assess where you are health-wise. We believe that any change that you are willing to make will help you live a more balanced life toward a great retirement while honorably serving your community as peace keepers and help us as a profession reduce these sad and tragic health statistics.
REMEMBER: WE ARE THE HONORABLE PROFESSION!
Stay safe and be well!
Sgt. Mark St.Hilaire is a 29 year veteran LEO working in a busy Metro-west suburb of Boston, Mass. He is a volunteer police peer with a regional CISM Team. He is a member of ILEETA. You can follow him on Twitter: @npd3306 or Linked-In. You can contact him by confidential email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Colonel Robert “Coach” Lindsey is retired after 34 years of service with the Jefferson Parish Sheriff Office in Louisiana. He is an active teacher in retirement working with law enforcement and corrections world-wide. Coach has received numerous awards and honors for his role as a tactics trainer, martial artist, Verbal Judo Instructor and a mentor to many individuals world-wide.
1st published L.E.T.