Heart disease, which includes strokes and other cardiovascular diseases, is a pervasive problem in the United States. In fact, more than 12 million people visit their physicians each year for heart disease-related reasons. Individuals diagnosed with heart disease may suffer from the following symptoms:
- Stress, anxiety and depression
- Difficulty focusing on tasks
Of those diagnosed with heart disease, nearly 600,000 die each year—roughly 1 out of 4. Treatment and the indirect costs related to heart disease, such as missed days of work, add up to nearly $313 billion each year. Fortunately, there are activities and programs your business can promote to encourage heart health and wellness in your employees.
Activities and Programs
Improving heart health can be as simple as regular exercise (like taking a daily walk) and eating heart-healthy foods. However, finding the motivation for these activities can be challenging. Here are three programs and activities you can implement to help your employees make healthier decisions.
- Create opportunities at your business for your employees to participate in physical activities and good nutrition:
- Promote healthy alternatives in cafeterias and vending machines. You can achieve this by contacting your food distributor and requesting healthier options—such as nuts, fresh and dried fruits, whole grains, and fewer microwavable meals.
- Encourage some type of exercise. Your company does not need a gym or designated walking trails to help your employees stay healthy. Instead, you can encourage them to take a walk around the building during their breaks. By walking at least 6,000 steps every day, your employees can improve their health.
“By taking the stairs each day, your employees can cut their risk of heart attacks in half.”
- Place signs by elevators encouraging people to use the stairs. By taking the stairs each day, your employees can cut their risk of heart attacks in half.
- Consider supporting your employees’ healthy choices by providing or reimbursing them for gym memberships. Your business may be unable to install a gym or walking trails near your office, so providing a discount for gym memberships may a good alternative.
- Educate your employees on steps they can take to boost their heart health. You can do this by providing health risk assessments, medical screening and effective follow-up education and counseling. This may help employees better control their blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels, and it could help them quit smoking.
Healthier Employees Are More Productive Employees
Heart disease contributes to absences from work, poor performance and death. By motivating and empowering your employees to make smart health and wellness decisions, you can keep your health care costs low while also increasing productivity. Simple and straightforward initiatives, such as providing healthier vending machine options and health education, can make an impressive impact. ♦
Shelia Bannister, MS, CHES®, CHWC
Health and Wellness Director