Better health begins with knowledge
Dr John McElligott, founder of the Professional Drivers Medical Depot (www.pd-md.com), has been focusing on driver health issues for 15 years. He recently opened the first of a planned series of PD-MD clinics at Petro truck stops across the country. According to Dr. McElligott, whose company has conducted extensive health tests on over-the-road drivers, 90 percent of drivers are on medication for high blood pressure, diabetes, elevated cholesterol or some combination of the three.
Over the Road and Pro Trucker magazines interviewed Dr. McElligott earlier this year at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, where he talked to countless truck drivers who stopped by the OTR/PT booth to have their blood pressure checked. During the three days of the show, Dr. McElligott sent more than 20 drivers to the hospital for further tests after their tests showed dangerously high blood pressure levels.
Following are excerpts from the interview:
Why is high blood pressure so dangerous?
If you’re a driver, your worst-case scenario is that you have a stroke or a heart attack on the road and crash. It happens all the time. In our study, 60 percent of the drivers we talked to knew a driver who had died between the ages of 40 and 60. Many, many drivers don’t live much past 60, if that, so that’s why hypertension is so bad. Because of high blood pressure, these people are getting heart attacks, kidney failure, diabetes; they are losing their extremities. Diabetes is the leading cause of non-traumatic amputations in the United States.
You’re going to scare the heck out of drivers.
We’re not trying to scare them. We’re going to educate them.
So what’s the good news?
The good news is that truck drivers are a part of the most unique, dynamic, diverse profession I have ever worked with. I am having more fun than I’ve ever had in my life, just taking a guy and educating him. We’re doing anything and everything to get this network of health clinics established across the country. If we break even, I’ll be happy, and we’ll save some lives.
With education and treatment, what outcomes are possible?
We can do a lot. With education and diet, we can probably fix half the problems we see with truck drivers because most of them are obesity- or diet-related. I got one guy I took off the road. I gave him six months to live. He had sleep apnea, high blood pressure and diabetes. I sent him to the Mayo Clinic. I told him that without gastric bypass surgery, he was going to be dead in six months. He had the surgery, and a year-and-a-half later, he’s lost 225 pounds. He’s off sleep apnea medicine. He’s off high blood pressure medicine. He’s off diabetic medicine. The only thing he hasn’t done is quit smoking, but he’s got his CDL back, he’s feeling really good, and he’s on the road again.
Dr. John McElligott