High Blood Pressure in Truck Drivers – How to Avoid Hypertension

high blood pressure in truck drivers

Image credit: Andreas D., Flickr

The average truck driver lifestyle consists of weeks at a time on the open road accompanied by unhealthy fast food meals and minimal physical activity. As we’ve discussed many times over, this is an unhealthy way to live and needs to be changed for the better so as not to lead to health issues like hypertension, more commonly known as high blood pressure.

High blood pressure in truck drivers is relatively common. We all know it’s not good, but what exactly IS blood pressure anyway?

What IS blood pressure?

Blood pressure is the measurement of the force against the walls of your arteries as your heart pumps blood through your body. Your blood pressure reading is made up of two numbers — the systolic blood pressure (top number), and the diastolic blood pressure (bottom number). The systolic pressure is the force the blood exerts on artery walls when the heart contracts, and the diastolic is the force exerted when the heart relaxes.

Blood pressure readings

The chart below details healthy and unhealthy blood pressure readings. 

Systolic Blood Pressure (Top Number)Diastolic Blood Pressure (Bottom Number)Category
Below 120 Below 80 Normal blood pressure
120-139 80-89 Pre-hypertension
140-159 90-99 Stage 1 hypertension
160 or higher 100 or higher Stage 2 hypertension

If your reading is between two numbers, your blood pressure is the higher category. For example, if your reading is 120/90, your category is Stage 1 hypertension.

Who’s at risk?

Anyone with a family history of high blood pressure is at risk. Those who smoke and/or drink excessively, have difficulties managing ongoing stress, or are overweight or obese are also at risk.

How serious is high blood pressure in truck drivers?

High blood pressure leads to a greater risk of chronic diseases like heart disease, kidney disease, strokes, eye damage, and atherosclerosis. High blood pressure in truck drivers can keep you from getting your CDL, as blood pressure levels at or above 180/110 are DOT disqualifying factors. So yes, high blood pressure is a big deal. Not only can it threaten your life, it can get you denied from a job.

I have hypertension. How do I lower it?

You can lower high blood pressure by beginning an exercise regimen and incorporating more physical activity into your daily life. Managing your stress, reducing your sodium intake to under 1500 mg, and drinking and smoking less (or quitting!) will also help. Increasing your intake of potassium can also help to prevent high blood pressure and strokes. Try eating bananas, spinach, citrus fruits, avocados, and broccoli — all are high in potassium.

Why is high blood pressure in truck drivers so common?

Hypertension is common because they possess many of the habits and risk factors for high blood pressure including…

Diet

Many truck drivers don’t eat as healthy as they should. Extended hours on the road and long nights lead drivers to the call of the Big Mac. Fast food is a triple threat to your blood pressure – it’s high in sodium, fat, and calories. Obesity is a leading cause of high blood pressure, so cook your own meals in the truck and buy fresh groceries for a healthier diet.

Shocking statistic: 85% of truck drivers are overweight [Journal of the American Diabetic].

Exercise

After 11 hours on the road, many truck drivers don’t want to stop and work out for an hour. Who can really blame them? The last thing most people want to do after work is more work. Easy solution: get up and do it in the morning before your day. You’ll get it out of the way and it’ll give you a nice energy boost!

Shocking statistic: 92% of male truck drivers are inactive and do not regularly participate in aerobic exercise.

Stress

Truck driving is one of the most stressful jobs out there. Workplace stressors like traffic, loneliness, fear of assault or vehicle accident, finances and insufficient sleep can elevate blood pressure and stress levels. View tips on de-stressing your driving here.

Smoking

The last major risk factor for high blood pressure that’s common in truckers is smoking. The nicotine in cigarettes increases blood pressure and heart rate.

Shocking statistic: 67% of long haul truck drivers smoke cigarettes.

Fortunately, hypertension is pretty easy to avoid simply by adopting a healthier lifestyle. Workout regularly (it doesn’t have to be anything super intense!) and make healthier meal choices heavily focused on fresh fruits, veggies, and protein. Quit smoking and do what you can to de-stress, and you’ll be on the road to a healthy heart and life!

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About Amanda

Amanda is a former digital communications coordinator and frequent blogger for the TheHealthyTrucker.net, a website focused on truck driver health initiatives. Our mission is to encourage truck drivers to embrace a healthier lifestyle by providing both expert advice and real world experiences. Let us be your co-driver on the road to a healthier, happier life!