ST. LOUIS PARK, Minn. - It's a sobering fact that not many are aware about – heart disease is the no. 1 killer of firefighters across the country, according to the U.S. Fire Administration.
A local food company has teamed up with the St. Louis Park Fire Department to jump-start the campaign, "Healthy Hearts for Heroes."
Fire Chief Steve Koering was inspired to raise awareness about heart disease because of a health scare in 1996, when doctors identified a coronary problem.
"I was doing active firefighting, was doing all those things, which could have led to a potential heart attack at some point," Koering said.
Just as Koering was trying to raise awareness about heart disease to his firefighters, it just so happened a nearby building in St. Louis Park that houses the Step One Foods company was due for a fire inspection.
Dr. Elizabeth Klodas is a cardiologist and the co-founder of Step One Foods, a line of nutritious snacks and breakfast foods composed of plant sterols, omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants and fiber.
"Our foods are created to help people bridge the gap between knowing what to do in terms of nutrition and actually doing it," Klodas said.
Cardiologist and chief partnered to create the campaign, in which close to 40 St. Louis Park firefighters incorporated the Step One Foods items into their diet.
After 30 days, Klodas said the firefighters showed a 18 percent reduction in heart disease risk, judging by the group's cholesterol levels.
"I didn't get into this business to start a food company," Klodas said. "I got into it to help people because this is where they fail. This is where they have the hardest time – improving their own health through food."
Klodas and Koering aim to expand the campaign to 1,000 firefighters in Minnesota. They have applied for FEMA grants to provide funding for the campaign.
For more information on Step One Foods, visit steponefoods.com.