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Nikhil Prasad  Fact checked by:Thailand Medical News Team Dec 03, 2023  2 months, 3 weeks, 1 day, 1 hour ago

COVID-19 News: Study Involving Firefighters In America Shows That Even Mild To Moderate COVID-19 Infections Affects Cardiorespiratory Fitness

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COVID-19 News: Study Involving Firefighters In America Shows That Even Mild To Moderate COVID-19 Infections Affects Cardiorespiratory Fitness
Nikhil Prasad  Fact checked by:Thailand Medical News Team Dec 03, 2023  2 months, 3 weeks, 1 day, 1 hour ago
COVID-19 News: The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the critical role of frontline workers, particularly firefighters, whose demanding duties necessitate optimal cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF). Recent research by esteemed institutions, including Skidmore College, the University of Oregon, and the University of Illinois at Chicago, delves into the longitudinal changes in CRF among active firefighters following mild to moderate COVID-19 infections. This study covered in this COVID-19 News report, brings to light crucial insights into how the virus affects the cardiovascular and respiratory health of these essential personnel.


 
Background: The Crucial Role of CRF for Firefighters
Cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF), reflecting the cardiovascular and respiratory systems' integrated capacity to supply oxygen during maximal exertion, is paramount for individuals engaged in physically demanding occupations. Maintaining high CRF levels is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular diseases, mortality, and certain cancers. For firefighters, whose duties involve strenuous tasks under challenging conditions, optimal CRF is essential. Sudden cardiac events remain the leading cause of duty-related deaths for firefighters, emphasizing the importance of understanding factors that impact their CRF.
 
Impact of COVID-19 on CRF: Existing Research and Limitations
Previous research has indicated that COVID-19 can lead to decreased CRF, with more severe cases experiencing more pronounced effects. However, the majority of studies have focused on hospitalized patients or those experiencing prolonged symptoms, limiting generalizability to individuals with mild or moderate illness.
 
Additionally, the scarcity of longitudinal studies with a single-group design, especially among those with mild to moderate symptoms, adds complexity to understanding the long-term effects of COVID-19 on CRF.
 
Research Objectives
Despite the critical importance of CRF in firefighting, prior investigations have not specifically addressed the effects of COVID-19 on firefighters' CRF. Given the potential implications for firefighter health, safety, and mission performance, the present study sought to:
 
-Examine changes in CRF among active, career firefighters before and after mild to moderate COVID-19 infection.
 
-Identify whether the elapsed time since COVID-19 diagnosis significantly predicts changes in CRF.
 
Methods and Findings
The study encompassed 103 firefighters from seven Arizona fire departments, with an average age of 40 ± 9 years. Baseline CRF measures were obtained through cardiopulmonary exercise testing (CPET) during annual health exams in 2019. These measures were then compared with CPET evaluations conducted the following year for firefighters who self-reported mild to moderate COVID-19 infections between exams.
 
The results were striking. Among the cohort, peak oxygen consumption (VO2), a critical measure of CRF, declined by an average of 2.55 ml&mi ddot;kg−1·min−1 or 7.3% following COVID-19 infection. Notably, the number of days elapsed since COVID-19 infection showed a significant relationship with peak VO2 changes, indicating an ongoing impact. Controlling for variables such as biological sex, age, and BMI, predicted peak VO2 returned to pre-COVID-19 values approximately 300 days after infection.
 
Discussion: Unprecedented Insights into Firefighters' CRF Post-COVID-19
This study breaks new ground as the first to investigate longitudinal changes in CRF among an occupationally active cohort of firefighters following COVID-19 infection. The substantial finding of a 7.3% reduction in peak VO2, even among those with mild to moderate symptoms, poses serious implications for the operational readiness and safety of firefighters.
 
Comparisons with existing studies reveal unique insights. Athlete-based studies reported comparable decreases in CRF, but the firefighter population characteristics distinguish this research. Importantly, the study unveils the potential recovery trajectory, emphasizing that predicted peak VO2 may return to pre-COVID-19 levels around 300 days post-infection.
 
Dive into Mechanisms: Beyond Peak VO2
Cardiopulmonary exercise testing (CPET), considered the gold standard for assessing CRF, goes beyond measuring peak VO2. It offers insights into mechanisms explaining exercise intolerance. While studies have identified various mechanisms for reduced CRF post-COVID-19, including dysfunctional breathing, impaired pulmonary gas exchange, endothelial dysfunction, and muscle deconditioning, this study found specific patterns.
 
Ventilatory efficiency (VE/VCO2 slope) was significantly higher post-COVID-19, indicating impaired pulmonary circulation or increased dead space ventilation. Additionally, the oxygen uptake efficiency slope (OUES) was significantly lower, consistent with impaired ventilatory efficiency. Peak heart rate remained unchanged, making chronotropic incompetence less likely, while lower blood pressure and reduced oxygen pulse pointed towards autonomic dysfunction.
 
Notably, VO2 at anaerobic threshold (AT) decreased by 24.3%, highlighting potential issues in oxygen delivery to tissues.
 
Heterogeneity in Data: Implications for Firefighter Health
Despite the average 7.3% reduction in CRF, the study noted heterogeneity in individual responses. Some firefighters exhibited peak VO2 values 20% lower than pre-COVID-19, while others showed improvements. Such variations may stem from personal motivation, changes in exercise patterns due to pandemic restrictions, or even underlying health conditions. The study emphasized the need for personalized monitoring and support, considering the critical role firefighters play in public safety.
 
Time Course of Recovery: Insights for Healthcare Professionals
Understanding the time course of recovery is crucial for developing targeted interventions. The study's findings suggested a small yet beneficial effect on peak VO2 change with increasing time from COVID-19. By 300 days post-infection, predicted reductions in peak VO2 were nearly zero when control variables were held constant. This aligns with existing literature suggesting a gradual improvement in CRF over months, reinforcing the importance of extended monitoring for individuals recovering from COVID-19.
 
Conclusion: A Call for Further Research and Action
In conclusion, this groundbreaking study highlights a substantial 7.3% reduction in CRF among firefighters following mild to moderate COVID-19 infection. The implications for operational readiness, safety, and individual health underscore the need for ongoing monitoring and support. The observed heterogeneity in responses emphasizes the complex interplay of individual factors, urging healthcare professionals and firefighting authorities to adopt a personalized approach.
 
The study's call for additional research resonates, urging exploration into recovery dynamics across different COVID-19 severity groups, the role of vaccination, and targeted interventions to expedite CRF restoration. As the firefighting community grapples with these findings, a collective effort is needed to ensure the continued efficacy of frontline response efforts, safeguarding the health and fitness of those who selflessly protect our communities.
 
The study findings were published in the peer reviewed journal: Frontiers in Public Health.
https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpubh.2023.1308605/full
 
For the latest COVID-19 News, keep on logging to Thailand Medical News.

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