Cardiologist, police lieutenant works to keep officers heart healthy

Austin

WEST LAKE HILLS, Texas (KXAN) — Officers from Texas and across the country killed in the line of duty are being honored in Washington, D.C as part of National Police Week.

The fallen officers were honored by the police unity tour, which is a bicycle and motorcycle ride. Among the list of officers being remembered is Round Rock Police Officer Charles Whites who was killed while responding to a crash on Interstate 35 in 2018.

Longtime cardiologist and police lieutenant Dr. Jon Sheinberg said there are other factors that contribute to police officer deaths and a big one is poor heart health. 

“We’ve collected data on over 2,000 police officers and what we found is 2,000 officers have an increased risk of heart disease compared to the civilian population,” Sheinberg said. “Now, we’ve known for years that officers die at an earlier age. The average life expectancy of a police officer is 22 years less than the general population.”

He started collecting the data five years ago and much of it comes from Central Texas officers. 

“From Travis, Williamson, Hays (counties) and some from Colorado,” he said. 

The Baylor, Scott & White doctor said his data shows police officers have an increased risk of heart disease compared to the general population.  He says police officers are 25 times more likely to die from cardiovascular disease than from the action of a suspect.

Dr. Sheinberg said because of this he’s working on a wellness program that can be implemented in departments across the world. 

“In the wellness programs, we have five different pillars, tactical combat casualty care or first aid, cardiac screening, nutrition and weight loss pillar and a mental health component,” Sheinberg said. “My skill set is not running traffic, my skillset is developing techniques and procedures to keep our police officers alive and healthy.”

At present, lawmakers are looking into legislation that would give police officers line of duty benefits, should they suffer a heart attack after their duty shift ends. Sheinberg said he is hopeful it will be signed soon.  

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