Promoting Employee Wellness During Heart Health Month

Promoting Employee Wellness During Heart Health Month

Are You Taking Care of Your Heart?

February is American Heart Month, making it the ideal time of year to reflect on your employees’ health and wellness. Research from the American Heart Association (AHA) estimates that nearly 128 million adults in the U.S. have cardiovascular disease, which is around 50% of working-age citizens. Since a chronic heart problem like hypertension and coronary artery disease may lead to heart attacks, heart failures and strokes, it’s important to provide your workers with educational resources and programs that can help them manage their conditions.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at how employee cardiovascular health can impact the organization as a whole, from productivity and morale to health care costs, before diving into key strategies for preventing heart disease.

Keep Your Company’s Heart Beating Strong

Employees are often referred to as the heart of the company, and rightly so. After all, it’s their dedicated work and productivity that gives the organization life. And when employees are living happy and healthy lives, it shows in their passion and energy in the workplace.

To help ensure the company has a healthy heart, employers must also prioritize the heart health of each individual worker. That means going beyond sending the occasional community health newsletter and establishing a robust, year-round program that focuses on mitigating heart disease risk in its many forms. For instance, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that the leading cause or risk factors behind heart disease and stroke are:

  • High blood pressure.
  • High cholesterol.
  • Diabetes.
  • Smoking.
  • Unhealthy diet.
  • Physical inactivity.

Creating separate campaigns and initiatives to target each of these issues will be critical. Not only does this spread heart disease awareness, but it also advocates for healthy lifestyle changes that could help employees avoid severe illness in the future. However, it can’t just be a once-a-year initiative.

Developing an effective wellness program involves more than reducing absenteeism and workers’ comp claims — it’s about creating a culture of a heart healthy life in the workplace. Being “heart healthy” requires a daily, ongoing effort and should not be treated as a temporary heart disease awareness campaign for National Heart Month only. Instead, employers should lead by example and incorporate lifestyle changes, wellness and health care initiatives into their companies’ day-to-day workflow.

To get started, here are 5 strategies for improving employee health and wellness in the workplace:

1. Develop Health-Wellness Programs

The first step to supporting your employees’ long-term health is to integrate cardiovascular disease education and prevention into your existing policies. According to the latest data from the CDC, only 56% of small to medium sized employers have some type of wellness program. What’s more, only 34% of companies with 50-100 employees have such a program in place.

Building a knowledge base of health-related materials allows your employees to access key information on their own time. However, it’s important to find ways to incentivize workers to use the resources at their disposal, either through reward programs or hands-on training events. In terms of specifics, the CDC highlights the following components of comprehensive wellness programs:

  • Annual health screenings.
  • Clear links between health promotion and available programs.
  • Health and wellness education.
  • Health program integration at a company level.
  • Supportive social and physical environments.

Since every workplace has different occupational risks, creating personalized wellness initiatives is essential. For more tips on how to build an effective health program, read our post on cost-effective wellness programs any business can start.

2. Combat Employee Stress and Fatigue

Stress, high blood pressure and overexertion are known to aggravate existing heart conditions, which is why employers should take the time to understand each worker’s physical limitations. This is especially important for employees who work long hours or irregular shifts, though work-related stress is common in nearly every industry. Organizations can help combat fatigue by offering employees flexible scheduling and educating workers about the importance of a good night’s rest. Research from the NIH found that 1 in 3 adults in the U.S. don’t get enough sleep, which not only impacts their productivity, but also makes them more likely to suffer a heart-related issue at work.

Luckily, there are plenty of strategies employers can use to reduce overexertion and stress, from conducting risk assessments to educating workers about the importance of sleep health. To learn more about this often overlooked health topic, view our blog post on workplace fatigue.

3. Encourage the Buddy System

While there are plenty of resources for employers to motivate an employee to better manage their heart condition, creating a team-oriented environment is crucial to any health initiative. Educating employees on ways to spot the early signs of a heart attack or stroke helps them look out for each other while at work. According to the Mayo Clinic, the following symptoms are associated with a heart problem that may call for immediate medical attention:

  • Chest pains, tightness and/or discomfort
  • Shortness of breath and dizziness
  • Numbness or weakness in the legs or arms
  • Pain in the neck, jaw, throat or upper abdomen
  • Irregular heartbeats that are rapid, pounding or fluttering

In addition to the warning signs, employees should understand the risk factors and lifestyle choices that contribute to heart disease. This sort of awareness is a roadmap to healthier habits and builds productive relationships with coworkers. Whether you opt for a formal or informal buddy system, it’s important to promote teamwork and partnership in the workplace.

4. Provide CPR Training and Awareness

Even the best health and wellness programs can’t 100% ensure an employee will never experience a heart-related issue on the job. And while a tight-knit group of employees may be able to hold one another accountable for unhealthy habits, they should also know how to administer CPR in an emergency. According to the AHA, nearly 350,000 sudden cardiac arrests occur outside of a hospital setting each year. Considering CPR can immediately double or triple a person’s chance of survival, employers should prioritize training and awareness as part of their core health programs.

Stayin' Alive' CPR Lifesaver

For tips on how to administer CPR in emergency situations, check out this blog post about how staying alive will make you a CPR lifesaver.

5. Promote Healthy Choices for Workplace Snacks

One of the best ways to achieve a heart healthy lifestyle is to­ eat healthy. The fuel we put in our bodies is just as crucial as the environment we cultivate around us. This National Heart Month, take the opportunity to evaluate and elevate the nutritional offerings in your workplace.

Are the break room cupboards filled with processed chips and snack bags? Is the refrigerator stocked with soda? Try replacing or supplementing these with healthy snack options, such as popcorn, trail mix or fresh fruits and vegetables. Ditch the soda in favor of filtered or even sparkling water if you miss the bubbles.

With an array of heart-friendly snack options in the office, you not only demonstrate you’re invested in your team’s wellbeing, but you also encourage employees to swap snacks with an increased risk of heart disease for nutrient-rich alternatives. And by dumping sugary sodas and caffeinated energy drinks in favor of water, you help ensure your team stays hydrated without the negative health effects of these types of beverages.

Want More Wellness Tips?

No matter where you are in the journey toward better safety and health programs at work, FFVA Mutual is here to help you identify opportunities for improvement to support your employees’ long-term wellness. If you’re an FFVA Mutual policyholder looking for hands-on training like our first aid, CPR and AED course, complete our safety training request form today!

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