How can employers help reduce the number of deaths from heart disease and stroke each year?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Heart Association, the United States has hit a “plateau” in progress on heart disease and stroke.* Heart disease remains the number 1 cause of death in the United States, with the rate of death only decreasing slightly between 2016 and 2017. Additionally the number of deaths from stroke, the fifth leading cause of death in the United States, increased by 0.8% in 2017.
As additional research is done on comorbidities (when one person has multiple coexisting diseases), many studies have found that diabetes and kidney disease are both linked to cardiovascular disease. In fact, individuals with diabetes are two times more likely to die from cardiovascular disease than those without diabetes.*
What employers can do:
American adults spend nearly one-third of their lives at work, which puts employers in a unique position to positively influence employee health. Here are 5 ways employers can help their employees reduce their risk for heart disease:
- Have leaders make wellness a priority. Without support from people-managers and leaders, employees have a difficult time focusing on their health and well-being. If leaders are actively taking time to focus on their health—taking routine walking breaks during the day, for example—then employees are more likely to prioritize their health, as well.
- Offer yearly biometric screenings. Many individuals are unaware of their health risks. Yearly biometric screenings give employees a touch-point to make sure they are in-the-know about their current health status.
- Add hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) to the screening panel. Diabetes greatly increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. Screening for HbA1c in addition to fasting glucose gives participants a more accurate picture of their type 2 diabetes risk, allowing them to make lifestyle changes before chronic conditions develop.
- Allow employees to ask questions. Giving participants the option to ask questions about their screening results—whether to a health coach or board-certified physician—helps employees engage in their health and become connected to the right care for their specific health conditions.
- Encourage healthy habits in the workplace. Added sugars (like those found in sodas, sweetened beverages, and processed foods) have been shown to lead to weight gain and decreased heart health. By limiting or removing unhealthy food and beverage options in workplace vending machines and at office meetings, and replacing those options with healthier alternatives, employees will be less likely to consume foods with added sugars.
*American Heart Association News. ‘Plateau’ in progress on heart disease, stroke deaths. AHA website. Published November 29, 2018. Accessed December 17, 2018. https://www.heart.org/en/news/2018/11/29/plateau-in-progress-on-heart-disease-stroke-deaths.
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