February is American Heart Month.
If you were there as a first responder or you worked, lived, or studied in Lower Manhattan on or after 9/11, you have a higher risk of developing many respiratory illnesses and 69 different types of cancer resulting from exposure to Ground Zero toxins.
In addition, a study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association found another significant risk for the approximately 500,000 9/11 first responders and survivors who were there: heart disease.
The report examined the medical histories of 9,796 firefighters who worked at the World Trade Center site and found a 44% increase in heart attacks, strokes, heart surgeries, and deaths from heart disease – even when controlling for body mass index, smoking, diabetes, hypertension, and other risk factors.
In honor of American Heart Month, we urge members of the 9/11 community to protect themselves by regularly visiting a primary health care provider and reporting any problems that could indicate heart disease.
Despite evidence that Ground Zero exposure contributes to heart problems, the World Trade Center (WTC) Health Program and the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) have not yet added cardiovascular diseases to the list of conditions eligible for free health care and compensation.
But the WTC Health Program and the 9/11 VCF continue to add new illnesses as the health program receives more medical information from its members, and an increasing amount of information helps strengthen the correlation between toxic exposure and many chronic health conditions —such as heart disease.
In the meantime: exercise regularly, limit consumption of sodium and saturated fats, reduce stress, and take medications as prescribed by your doctor.
If you were exposed to Ground Zero toxins, you should know your health status. Don’t let a delayed diagnosis become a death sentence.
Barasch & McGarry, Lawyers for the 9/11 Community, represents more than 35,000 members of the 9/11 community.
Visit 911victims.com or call 212-385-8000 today.
We have included resources below for accessing medical care if you are at risk of heart attack or stroke.
Warning Signs of a Heart Attack: https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/heart-attack/warning-signs-of-a-heart-attack
Warning Signs of a Stroke: https://www.stroke.org/en/about-stroke/stroke-symptoms