You likely already know that high blood pressure can be a cause of serious health risks and issues. However, you may not know that your commercial driver’s license could also be at risk. If you need a little extra motivation to get your blood pressure under control, this may be it. For anyone who needs a CDL, high blood pressure must be under control.
What Is Blood Pressure?
Blood pressure is the pressure exerted by your blood on the sides of the vessels as it pumps around your body. It is measured in a relatively simple way. An inflatable cuff is wrapped around your arm and your blood pressure is measured using a sphygmomanometer in millimeters of mercury.
As you may know, the reading reported is in two numbers such as 120 over 80. The higher number is the systolic pressure, the reading when your heart beats. The lower number is the diastolic pressure, the reading when your heart is at rest.
A reading lower than 120/80 is considered normal, according to the American Heart Association. A reading between 120/80 and 129/80 is considered elevated. High blood pressure is when your systolic reading is over 130 and your diastolic pressure is over 80. There are three categories: stage 1, stage 2 and hypertensive crisis.
High Blood Pressure and Your Health
High blood pressure is linked to a variety of health issues. These include heart disease, cardiac arrest and other heart problems. It can also cause aneurysms, strokes, brain damage and other mental impairment. High blood pressure is even linked to kidney disease. In other words, you can really put yourself at risk by failing to control your blood pressure.
This condition may also lead to a lower quality of life. Slightly elevated blood pressure does not have any direct symptoms. However, it can cause health problems (as mentioned above) which may cause you to feel tired or uncomfortable, especially when driving. Some related conditions can also harm your mental acuity, increasing the danger when you are on the road.
You should not attempt to self-diagnose or self-manage high blood pressure. Instead, it is vital to speak with a medical professional and follow his or her advice. Measuring blood pressure is a regular part of preventative medicine.
High Blood Pressure and CDL License Regulations
Taking care of your blood pressure and general health should be a priority regardless of your career. However, if you are a trucker or otherwise need a commercial driver’s license, you should know that your livelihood may be at risk.
As you already know, you must pass a DOT physical to receive your CDL (there are some exceptions to this, but it is commonly required by employers even when it isn’t by the law). Your medical certificate must also be maintained.
The Department of Transportation has identified high blood pressure as a significant factor in driver health. As described above, high blood pressure is a risk factor for major health problems including heart attack and stroke. These could happen while you are driving, especially if your pressure is very high.
If you have been diagnosed with hypertension (high blood pressure), you will be subject to some additional rules for receiving your CDL. These could interrupt your career or even halt it.
According to the FMCSA, a driver with a reading under 140/90 can receive medical certification every two years. A driver with pressure between 140/90 and 159/99 must certify every year. Anyone with a result between 160/100 and 179/109 may receive a one-time, three-month certification. If he or she can achieve a normal reading within those three months, a one-year certification can be granted.
The situation is even more dire for someone with a reading over 180/110. In this case, the driver is disqualified from receiving a CDL. After achieving normal blood pressure, he or she can certify every six months.
In other words, blood pressure there is a direct link between high blood pressure and CDL license medical certification. The consequences could literally put your career on hold (not to mention the risk to your life).
Getting Your Blood Pressure Under Control
The best thing you can do for your blood pressure is to see a medical professional. If your pressure is elevated or high, your physician will provide appropriate guidance on how to best manage it. Do not attempt to diagnose hypertension on your own or treat it without proper medical supervision.
Nonetheless, there are several things you can do to lower your blood pressure, many of which will likely be suggested by your doctor. According to the Mayo Clinic, you should consider the following:
- Lose Weight: Blood pressure typically correlates to weight. If you lose some extra pounds, you will start to see your numbers going down.
- Exercise Regularly: In addition to helping you lose weight, exercise strengthens your cardiovascular system. The Mayo Clinic recommends at least 150 minutes of vigorous exercise per week.
- Eat Right: A healthy diet is good for your waistline and your heart. Eat lots of fruit, vegetables and whole grains. Try to skip saturated fats, cholesterol and sodium.
- Limit Alcohol and Quit Smoking: Everyone likes to relax, but these substances can dramatically increase your blood pressure. Quit smoking and moderate your alcohol intake.
- Reduce Stress: Being a trucker can be stressful at times. However, this can increase blood pressure. Practice some stress-management techniques.
- Limit Caffeine: This one may hurt a lot of truck drivers. You should cut back on caffeine intake. Look for other ways to stay awake while driving.
You don’t have to completely renovate your lifestyle, but with a few adjustments, you can be a healthier, more successful trucker.