Driving a commercial truck can earn you a modest annual income far better than most average Americans, plus you get to travel a lot. However, drivers have to endure leaving their family at home for weeks, long hours on the road and unusual sleeping patterns. The predictable result is health complications mostly due to job lifestyle and occupational stress. Despite the health risk, there are many drivers who have retired from commercial driving without suffering lifestyle and depression related illness. In fact, in today’s era, it is naïve to assume such health risks are only faced by commercial drivers since even desk job holders’ face the same predicament. In retrospect, it is better to know the most common health risk associated with truck driving and how you can avoid them.
- Sleep Deficit- In truck driving, you are paid according to the hours you put in or the miles you have covered. Even with the driving period regulation, truck drivers are often tempted to put in extra hours in exchange for extra money. The long term consequence is sleep deprivation which causes serious conditions such as weak immune system, high blood pressure, sleep paralysis, memory loss and weight fluctuations. If you find yourself having breathing difficulties while sleeping and unusual daytime sleepiness, it could be that you have sleep apnea and you should seek immediate medical intervention. Compromising your sleep for that extra cash will only lead to regrets since it will not reverse your health status.
- Lung Cancer- It is an astonishing statistic that at least 60% of truck drivers in America smoke. Hence, it is quite normal to find a commercial driver who cannot get behind the wheel without smoking a cigarette. Of course, we all know the dangers of cigarette smoking and lung cancer does not stop to consider whether you are driving a trailer or a school bus. Even if you avoid cancer, cigarette smoking increases the chances of obesity, heart attack and stroke. There are of methods to quit cigarette smoking but it all narrows down to motivation. Do you want to be that driver who can’t cover 100 miles without a puff and probably can’t run a mile without running out of breath in a huff?
- Over Weight/Obesity- Right after you start smoking, you start eating every other junk food that is available at your next stop. Put in a few recreational activities such as watching movies and filling your belly with a few bottles of beer before you sleep. A few months or years later, you will probably be overweight or obese. Although obesity and overweight is an American problem in general, 50% of truck driver in the country are obese while 73% are over-weight. But you don’t want to become another statistic, do you? Then watch your diet and exercise at least 5 days a week. A jog at least a mile or 2 might seem hard the first days but eventually after the body adapts, you will feel like you are missing something if you skip a day. Even lifting dumbbells, performing jumping jacks and doing press ups are considered less strenuous but significant in keeping the body in shape. Adding veggies and fruits in your diet while avoiding too much fat on daily basis will also go a long way in avoiding obesity.
- Heart Attack- Sadly, at least 2 or 3 truck drivers in America succumb to heart attack every month. The usual symptoms that signal an impending heart attack include; nausea, difficulty breathing, chest pain/discomfort, cold sweats and pain in the neck, arms, back and jaw. Consult a doctor immediately if you experience the aforementioned symptoms. Obviously, a heart attack does not only affect those who are overweight since sometimes it is genetic. However, obese people are at a higher risk of a heart attack but that doesn’t mean if you have an ectomorph body type, you should just relax in the comfort zone. Just like obesity, you can avoid heart attack by eating healthy and exercising regularly.
- Skin Cancer- You probably don’t know it but getting exposed to the sun all day while driving can damage your skin. The worst case scenario is skin cancer but compared to heart attack and obesity, it is not so rampant in the trucking industry. Regardless, it is better to be safe than sorry. Make sure you wear sunscreen or put up a film over the window whenever you are out in the sun for too long.
- Bladder/Kidney Complications- Truck drivers delay their nature call most of the time when they are on the road. The only problem is that it can lead to bladder and kidney complications and sometimes even cancer in the long run. Even if you are behind schedule en route to your receiver, it only takes less than 5 minutes to pull over and empty your bladder. If you can’t find a secure spot then you would have to consider loading on an empty bottle but make sure you dispose it appropriately.
The secret to maintaining a healthy stress free lifestyle as a truck driver is to balance your priorities. Money is essential but your family and health is important too.