The life of an average truck driver is mostly spent on the road accompanied by fast foods, energy drinks and inconsistent physical activities. The most probable health consequence of living such a lifestyle is hypertension or otherwise known as high blood pressure. Not to scare whoever is pursuing a career in commercial truck driving but according to DOT and FMCSA, the qualifying limit for a CDL approval is a high blood pressure reading of 140/90 and below. Drivers who have high blood pressure that reads beyond 140/90 risk being disqualified from attaining a CDL. Fortunately, there are various loopholes that CDL drivers can use to their advantage. Ultimately, CDL drivers have to get their blood pressure in check to avoid disqualification.

CDL Approved

In giving out CDL certificates, there are 3 levels of hypertension that are considered for approval.

Stage 1 Hypertension:
People with stage 1 hypertension normally have high blood pressure ranging between 140/90 to 150/99. Since they are at a low risk of hypertension related driver incapacitation, truckers in this category may get a DOT medical card to operate for 1 year. However, the driver should have reduced his/her blood pressure to 140/90 after 1 year to be re-certified. In most cases, if the blood pressure has improved but still above 140/90 during the re-certification, the DOT medical may be extended for 3 months. The extended certificate is non-renewable and if after 3 months the driver’s blood pressure is not 140/90 or below, he/she is taken out of service until the criteria is met.

Stage 2 Hypertension:
Drivers with stage 2 hypertension have blood pressure ranging between 160/100 and 179/109. Due to their higher risk of incapacitation, a 3 month certificate to drive is the best they can get. If the blood pressure is not at 140/90 or below after the 3 month DOT medical card expires, the driver is immediately disqualified. To re-apply again for certification, the driver has to wait for 1 year.

Stage 3 Hypertension:
Anyone with a blood pressure of 180/110 and above is considered to have stage 3 hypertension. The risk for an acute blood pressure related complication is too high and drivers in this category are disqualified. Not even a temporary DOT medical card can be given to a driver with stage 3 hypertension. The only way to get certified at this stage is to lower your blood pressure to 140/90 or below. Even if the driver manages to lower his/her blood pressure to 140/90 or below, a DOT physical exam has to be re-done after every 6 months.

The good news is that it is possible to reduce your blood pressure significantly before the next DOT physical. However, don’t forget to control your blood pressure on the long-term basis for the sake of your health.

The following tips are likely to keep up your blood pressure in check at a healthy level if followed to the letter.

Drink a lot of water
Excessive sodium in the body is one of the major causes of high blood pressure. Drinking a lot of water will hydrate your body and balance the sodium levels in the body.

 

Keep off the junk food
Eating too much junk food will only make it likely for you get hypertension disorder since they have high fat, sodium and calories. Obesity leads to high blood pressure and obviously fast food are to blame for the bigger part of it. Instead, substitute junk food for potassium rich diet such as potatoes, white beans, leafy greens, bananas and dried apricots. In fact, potassium rich food can help to reduce high blood pressure a few hours after digestion. Vegetables and fruits rich in nitrate/nitrite such as beetroot juice have the same short-term effect on blood pressure. 

Avoid coffee, cigarette and alcohol
If you have been red-zoned as a hypertensive patient, alcohol should be the last thing on your mind. This is because drinking excessive alcohol increases blood pressure directly. Caffeine and nicotine are not an exception since they also affect blood pressure to your disadvantage on short-term basis. Although nicotine and caffeine have minimal blood pressure effect on the long-term compared to short-term, you can’t afford to take a chance if your DOT physical exam is due. 

Get enough sleep
Inadequate sleep increases the risk of hypertension and cardiovascular complications. If you are the insomnia type of person, try getting some prescribed pills or chewing valerian root to help you sleep. Exempting the daily mandatory sleep before your next shift, a 1 hour nap during the day is helpful too. 

Exercise
Exercising after a hectic day on the job is easier said than done. The best solution is to work out in the morning before you get back on the road. Even a 15 minute jog every morning will prove to be significant in the long-run.

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