How To Help Your Employees Get Heart Healthy
Feb 14, 2018
Cardiovascular disease is your employees’ biggest health threat. In fact, according to the American Heart Association’s (AHA) "2016 Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics Update," heart disease and stroke are the No. 1 and No. 2 killers worldwide. Stroke is also the leading preventable cause of disability. Early prevention is the best way to avoid heart problems later on in life, which is why it is so important to help your employees get heart healthy now.
To help your employees get started on heart healthy behaviors, you need to make prevention a part of your company culture. Your wellness program should include education and challenges centered on heart health and how to keep certain risk factors under control. Employees may need your help to learn where to begin. Living a heart-healthy lifestyle does take some effort because it involves changing daily habits.
Although it might be difficult to switch over to a heart healthy lifestyle, your employees should know that it’s never too late to make behavior changes. In most cases, heart disease and stroke can be prevented by controlling certain risk factors such as diet, physical activity and overall lifestyle choices.
As a part of your wellness program, keep a focus on heart health – and not just for the month of February. Being heart healthy takes a daily, ongoing effort. Believe it or not, company culture can play a huge factor in heart health. As an employer, you have the power to lead by example and incorporate heart-healthy initiatives at your company.
Here is what your company should be promoting to help your employees get heart healthy:
A Smoke-free Workplace
Why? Smoking increases the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, which is completely avoidable. Smoking cigarettes has been shown to damage the lining of arteries, causing a buildup of fatty material called atherosclerosis. This build up can cause a heart attack or stroke. The risks of smoking are so significant that the Surgeon General has called it the “leading preventable cause of disease and deaths in the United States.”
How? Creating a smoke-free workplace is one of the best things you can do for your employees’ heart health. It is also a part of an employer’s responsibility to protect their employees from the dangers of second-hand smoke. If you currently do not have a policy in place about your company being a smoke-free workplace, be sure to do so. Make sure that all employees understand which areas smoking will not be tolerated, and provide smoking cessation options.
Heart Healthy Diets
Why? Research has shown that a heart-healthy diet can prevent cardiovascular disease and even reverse some damages. According to Million Hearts, 90% of Americans consume too much sodium, which increases their risk for high blood pressure – a major contributor to heart disease and stroke. Most of us also consume too much unhealthy fat and sugar. A variety of nutrient-rich foods are needed to maintain a healthy heart.
How? Offer heart healthy options at work. Replace fatty snacks in the vending machine with fruits, almonds, and other hearty healthy options. When catering food for special employee events, avoid ordering fried foods, red meat, and salty snacks. Concentrate on supplying your employees with more fruits and vegetables and less sodium, saturated fat and trans fat. Keep all office potlucks heart healthy and always keep healthy portions in mind.
Why? The heart is a muscle, and it needs to be exercised. Being active is extremely important in preventing heart disease and stroke. Regular exercise lowers blood pressure and bad cholesterol. The AHA recommends that adults get 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week, which is about 30 minutes of exercise, five days a week.
How? Help your employees get more active during the workday. Encourage walking meetings and walking clubs. Reward employees for their participation. Create challenges to see who can walk the most steps in a day. Create an office space that encourages physical activity like standing desks, exercise balls or an onsite gym. Also be sure to promote regular exercise outside of the office as well, such as giving employees discounted gym memberships or fitness class coupons.
Limit Alcohol Consumption
Why? Excessive drinking can lead to a number of harmful health conditions, including cardiovascular diseases. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rates excessive alcohol use as one of the top five lifestyle choices that can lead to heart disease. Drinking alcohol regularly has been shown to increase blood pressure, and binge drinking can cause irregular heart rhythms.
How? Like everything else, alcohol consumption is all about moderation. While it is true that some alcoholic beverages have health benefits, too much alcohol is harmful to your body in many ways. Try to limit happy hour drinks and a number of drinks served at company functions.
Why? Obesity has a strong link to cardiovascular diseases. Being overweight can lead to high blood sugar, high blood pressure and raised levels of triglycerides – all major risk factors for heart disease. Excessive belly fat also increases the risk of heart attacks.
How? Promote a heart-healthy diet and regular exercise at your office. Encourage your employees to see a professional to find out their body mass index (BMI) and what a healthy weight goal should be.
Regular Health Screenings
Why? Not all of your employees are getting regular physical exams or seeing a health care professional as often as they should. Health screenings can help an employee find out if they do have any unhealthy signs of heart disease. The faster these risks are caught, the sooner your employees can receive treatment and get back on track with a heart healthy lifestyle.
How? Offer onsite screenings for employees. Bring in professionals to test employees’ blood pressure, BMI, glucose, and triglycerides. Also, try offering employees incentives for receiving their annual physicals.
Why? While some stress is normal, a high level of workplace stress could increase risks of heart disease. According to the AHA, stress may affect behaviors that increase the risk of heart disease such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, physical inactivity, and overeating. Learning how to effectively manage stress can help reduce some of these risks.
How? Take a holistic approach to wellness. Your wellness program should cover mental and emotional health, which includes stress management. Provide resources and education for your employees about how to deal with workplace stressors. Offer yoga or meditation classes to help employees relax and de-stress.
The fact of the matter is that most heart disease cases can be prevented through healthy behaviors. It’s important to keep a focus on heart health education and inspire employees to want to live a heart healthy lifestyle. By providing your employees with the education and resources they need to get heart healthy, you are helping them live longer and more enjoyable lives.