Believe it or not, most people are at risk for heart disease. And because our goal is to help you create a healthy, thriving workforce, we wanted to shine a light on this critical issue.
According to a national report, 90% of Canadians over the age of 20 have at least one risk factor for heart disease. Worse, 40% have three or more risk factors. This is a startling portion of your workforce.
Risk factors have a compounding effect, so having more than one significantly increases the likelihood of heart disease.
Even without full-blown heart disease, people experience negative effects even if they simply have risk factors. In fact, employees with risk factors report 50% more absences from work than those without!
The good news is, many of these risk factors can be controlled by lifestyle choices.
As an employer, you can help employees make smart choices to prevent heart disease and stay healthy. Workplace wellness programs are a great way to help your team thrive!
Benefits of Employee Wellness Programs
Your business depends on energetic, productive, and healthy employees. Why not help your team perform at their best?
Wellness programs reduce absenteeism by 1.5 to 1.7 days per year per employee. This adds up to an estimated savings of $251 per employee per year.
A workplace wellness program is customizable. You can include benefits that are appropriate for your particular employees and budget. Here are a few examples:
- Healthy cafeteria food options
- Ongoing employee education (such as newsletters and workshops) on health issues
- In-house fitness facilities or sponsored gym memberships
- Mindfulness meditation training to reduce stress
- Employee health and wellness challenges that celebrate personal wellness achievements with "rewards" (such as special recognition, gifts, or monetary incentives)
Prioritize Employee Wellness to Reduce Disease Risk Factors
Focusing on employee wellness can help you address key risk factors that lead to absenteeism, disability claims, and serious illnesses. When it comes to heart disease, some risk factors are “non-modifiable" and not under our control. These include age, gender, ethnicity, and family history.
But many risk factors are modifiable and controllable, such as:
- Lack of exercise
- Unhealthy diet
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Heavy drinking
- Chronic loneliness
Making better lifestyle choices is the most sustainable way to reduce, and ultimately prevent these risk factors.
Promote healthy eating to boost energy and heart health
Work can be stressful and it's tempting to distract ourselves with candy and other sugary foods. But a growing body of research recognizes that refined sugar is likely a major contributor to heart disease. A wellness program is key to educating employees on nutrition, and how to make better food choices.
For example, it can help your employees limit their consumption of sugary drinks like sodas, juice boxes, and sports drinks. It can also help steer them away from unhealthy snacking.
You can get started now by sending employees fun and inspiring memos listing "green light" snacks, such as fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, plain yogurt, and whole-grain crackers with hummus.
Start a challenge to see who can keep the healthy snacking going the longest! Employees are more likely to succeed if they have fun with it and support each other.
Keep cholesterol in check to prevent heart disease
Recommend that all employees learn about cholesterol and get their levels tested. The cost of these tests should be included in your workplace wellness offering. There are two types of cholesterol:
- Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) aka “bad cholesterol": LDL carries cholesterol to your arteries. High levels of LDL cholesterol can build up on the walls of your arteries.
(This type of cholesterol generally has no symptoms, which is why testing is so important!)
- High-density lipoprotein (HDL) aka “good cholesterol": HDL helps return LDL cholesterol to your liver to be removed from your body. It helps to prevent cholesterol plaque from building up in your arteries.
Help reduce stress to mitigate cardiovascular risk
One quarter of all Canadians report that their day-to-day lives are highly stressful. Many believe that stress affects their personal relationships, sleep, and physical health.
Some resort to quick fixes such as alcohol to escape their stress, but that's a counterproductive strategy. Heavy drinking can lead to high blood pressure, stroke, sudden cardiac arrest, or heart failure.
Instead, a wellness offering can help your team reduce stress in a healthy ways, including:
- Training in mindfulness and other stress reduction strategies
- Helping employees examine workload and work/life balance. Are they taking on too much? Do they have healthy boundaries around work, and get in enough down time?
- Educating employees on the value of getting enough sleep, taking their vacations, and unplugging from work
- Laughing! Laughter is a great way to reduce stress, and it can happen easily if coworkers are engaged in the program and encouraged to socialize and connect with each other
The unfortunate truth is, heart disease is a real threat to the health of your workforce. As an employer, a happy and productive team is important to you.
Since most Canadians have at least one risk factor for heart disease, it’s a good idea to do what you can to mitigate the risks. Educating your employees about making healthier lifestyle choices is one of the best ways to do so.
After all, healthy employees are more present, engaged, and productive. And if they thrive, so will your business.