Sleepy Hollow Doctor Issues New Year's Challenge

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Dr. Franklin Zimmerman, cardiologist at Phelps Memorial Hospital Center, was inspired by his sister, Assistant Chief of Police for the City of San Diego Shelley Zimmerman, and by his research showing a high risk of heart disease in first responders. Photo Credit: The Gold Standard

SLEEPY HOLLOW, N.Y. – A Sleepy Hollow doctor is helping first responders from around the area achieve their New Year's resolution to get healthier.

Dr. Franklin Zimmerman, a cardiologist at Phelps Memorial Hospital in Sleepy Hollow, will kick off his “Chief's Challenge” program on Jan. 1 to help improve health and wellness in more than 180 local first responders.

"We found that law enforcement personnel are at a high risk for heart disease,” Zimmerman said. “They have a high prevalence of cardiac risk factors, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cigarette smoking, psychological stress and a sedentary lifestyle.”

Club Fit gyms in Briarcliff Manor and Jefferson Valley have teamed up with Zimmerman to offer free three-month memberships to participating police officers and firefighters from Westchester and the surrounding counties. Departments with the highest average club visits will win donations from the Heart and Health Education Foundation.

The program began with research from Zimmerman that showed that law enforcement personnel is at a higher risk for heart disease. Zimmerman's research was recently published in Cardiology in Review. It has also been presented at a meeting of the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

"Both police officers and firemen need to be encouraged to build their own personal health, beginning with a regular exercise program such as the one being offered to them at Club Fit,” Zimmerman said.

Zimmerman's interest in first responder health is also personal: his sister is the assistant chief of police in San Diego.

"She is also a triathlete and trains regularly," Zimmerman said, "so I've had lots of support for this program in our family and through my sister's connections nationally."

Zimmerman hopes to expand the challenge across the country, noting that the Westchester County Chiefs of Police Association is very supportive.

"They recognize the need to keep their officers fit and healthy as a very important part of their commitment to public safety,” he said.

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