Life on the road is an all-consuming lifestyle. Sitting at one place for long hours, snacking as and when you can, drinking caffeine to stay awake and munching on junk food at all times can make staying healthy a distant dream. However, one shouldn’t give up. It is important to not lose hope and try for a healthier lifestyle, because there are a lot of health conditions that might affect a truck driver.
Lack of exercise, living in a cramped space, and diseases due to diesel fumes are some factors that affect the lifestyle of a truck driver. Some of these problems can be stopped before they turn serious. Paying close attention to the signs your body gives you is an effective precaution. One needs to pay attention to symptoms, and stay educated about the diseases and the measures that must be taken to avoid them.
Sitting in one place for long periods of time can cause many health issues like increased blood pressure, excess body fat in abdomen, obesity, high blood sugar, spiking cholesterol levels and metabolic problems. These issues can increase the risk of death from cancer and cardiovascular diseases.
Symptoms can be something as little as a headache, but it can be a sign of an underlying health issue. If you are having any persistent symptoms, even if they are mild, visit a doctor. You might have a disease which is curable in the early stage.
Some of the most common health issues drivers face in the trucking industry are as follows..
Studies show that about 50% of all truck drivers in the US are obese and about 73% are overweight. The main causes of obesity are unhealthy eating habits, lack of nutrition and little to no exercise in the trucking lifestyle. Long hours on the road and long distances, accompanied by lack of sleep, contribute to weight gain. Additionally, it leads to sleeping disorders, heart diseases, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.
Studies show that approximately 60% of truck drivers are smokers. Smoking along with the other aspects of the trucker’s lifestyle increase the chances of heart disease, stroke and diabetes (type 2).
This is one of the most overlooked health issues in a trucker’s life. When smoking becomes a daily habit, it gradually contributes to lung cancer development. To make matters worse, inhaling diesel fumes and other chemicals increases further the risk of developing lung cancer.
The poorly designed workspaces (truck cabins), long hours of focused driving and stressful job of truck driving can easily cause back and neck injuries. In addition to this, the process of loading and unloading cargo as well as sitting in one position for long hours can cause musculoskeletal injuries. Body stress and improper sitting positions can also lead to aches and pains.
This health condition is a problem for a lot of truck drivers. This disorder causes someone’s breathing to stop periodically when they are asleep. The problem with this sleeping disorder is that it causes the person to have a slow reaction time. Improper and insufficient sleep leads to daytime drowsiness and fatigue. As a part of CDL’s physical test, sleep apnea is checked amongst drivers. Drivers who have sleep apnea are not allowed to drive till they correct the problem.
Stress is a common health problem for truck drivers. There is a lot of stress in a trucker’s job. A trucker, being solely responsible for the truck as well as the cargo, handles all stressful aspects of his job which are as follows:
Stress can cause high blood pressure, sleep deprivation, drastic shifts in body weight as well as a weakened immune system.
Not finding a place to sleep can cause high stress. Many rest stops are shut down to reduce costs and truckers find it hard to find a safe place to rest. Truckers often park at rest stops to catch some shut-eye. This increases the stress for drivers and doesn’t give them a good night’s rest.
Mental health can take a hit when you have a life on the road. Many truckers experience loneliness and depression. This usually goes unnoticed because truckers rarely spend time with family and friends to notice a change in behavior. Many veterans take up trucking just for experiencing a different lifestyle, but dealing with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) along with depression and isolation causes even more issues.
Truck drivers don’t get a chance to access proper healthcare as they spend most of their time on the road and have uncertain schedules. Ignorance is not a bliss in case of health and wellness. Unwell and unhealthy humans are never productive.
Ignoring signs or symptoms of any and all health problems will only worsen health. Having a sedentary lifestyle along with bad eating habits can cause diabetes. Since 1970, those with diabetes mellitus have been restricted from driving; there are some exemptions allowed for insulin users, but this causes more hurdles for the drivers.
Truckers constantly worry about issues like high BP, diabetes and cancer, but with a life on the road, it becomes difficult to keep doctor’s appointments.
Research done by various organizations has confirmed the health hazards of the trucking lifestyle. While it might look overwhelming and impossible, staying fit and healthy as a trucker is not that difficult.
In addition, this change must be a PERMANENT one and not temporary. To do so, new habits should be inculcated slowly, within the comfort zone of the truck driver. Habits define a person. Any action that has a negative output in the long run is a bad habit. It’s important to analyse and look closely at one’s habits and identify the bad ones. Persistence, not speed, is important for changing habits.
As mentioned above, ignoring small symptoms can lead to major health problems. Habits like poor personal hygiene, improper food choices, skipping meals, and not doing enough physical exercise can make things worse.
Here are a few ways to stay healthy and fit…
Whenever you are free (if you are waiting for the truck to be loaded or unloaded, or there is a delay in schedule, or you get stuck because of bad weather), walk, stretch or exercise to keep yourself fit and active. Incorporate a work schedule in your daily activities to ensure that you dont ignore your health issues. Keeping a dumbbell or two in your truck’s cabin is a good practice.
Plan your meals, and try, as much as possible, to cook your own meals. Keep a hot plate in your truck’s cabin to ensure that you cook your meals. Avoid fatty foods that might lead to an increase in cholesterol levels. Reduce the junk food consumption like potato chips, burgers, fries, chocolate bars etc. It will cause problems like clogging up your arteries and increasing your cholesterol. Fill up on healthy foods like walnuts, apples, almonds, etc.
If you are a smoker, give up smoking. Routinely check your ventilation systems to ensure that they are working properly. Moreover, minimize your exposure to the fumes of diesel and other chemicals.
Adjusting your sitting position and implementing an exercise regimen to loosen stiff muscles is important. Have a routine check-up with your doctor to ensure that you do not have any injuries.
Manage your body weight and limit smoking and drinking to reduce your chances of getting sleep apnea. Drug and alcohol addictions should be completely given up (if any). Get sufficient sleep every night. Eight hours is considered sufficient for an adult. Keep a regular bed time and a regular rising time to make it a habit. A proper night’s rest helps your body regenerate and keeps the mind sharp.
Maintain a healthy lifestyle with healthy eating habits and daily exercise. Also try to meditate and do deep breathing exercises to calm yourself down. In addition to this, ensure that you are getting enough sleep. Find ways to de-stress and relax your mind and body each day. Yoga, reading and meditation are a few ways to do this.
Recognize that you might be experiencing depression or loneliness and talk to someone about it. Mental health is as important as physical health, so there is no shame in seeking help for a mental health problem. When you are at home, socialize with friends and family and keep yourself active.
Set Goals for your health as per your needs. Don’t try to do everything at once. It will cause a lot of frustration if you fail. Master one thing at a time. Maybe even start with something small, like drinking an extra ounce of water everyday or eating an extra fruit or vegetable daily.