It’s easy to link February to hearts. Valentine’s Day is February 14, after all, and stores are filled with heart-shaped boxes of chocolates, heart-covered cards and other heart decoration. It’s also American Heart Month.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease kills 610,000 people in the United States every year. It is responsible for 25 percent of all deaths and is the leading cause of death for both men and women.
Heart disease drives up medical costs, reduces productivity and hurt individuals and the people who care about them. Luckily, employers can help prevent cases of heart disease.
This February, promote heart wellness at work with these 10 ideas.
- Encourage healthy snacks. If the office is stocked with nothing but doughnuts and cake, people are going to have a hard time eating healthy. Offer snacks featuring whole grains, fresh fruits, nuts and vegetables.
- Encourage exercise breaks. Sitting at a desk for eight hours straight isn’t healthy. Encourage employees to take short breaks to stretch and walk. You can even organize an optional twice daily 10-minute team walk around your corporate campus or neighborhood, at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. for example. Designate a leader to make it happen.
- Promote after-work team activities for more exercise. Your company could create a sports team or participate in a charity walk—anything to get people moving.
- Provide educational materials. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute provides materials on cholesterol, heart attacks, high blood pressure and more here. Email your team a health tip of the day.
- Make sure employees understand their health benefits. Often, benefits that could help employees go unused. It might be because employees don’t understand or have forgotten about some of their benefits. Take a little time to remind them.
- Reduce stress at work. According to WebMD, stress can increase the risk of heart disease directly by raising blood pressure. It can also increase the risk in indirect ways if it results in unhealthy diet and exercise habits. Avoid creating an environment that’s too high-pressure, and encourage employees to take real lunch breaks.
- Make sure employees take time off. Do your employees brag about never using vacation days and working long hours week after week? This could lead to stress problems later. Encourage employees to achieve a healthy work-life balance.
- Consider a wellness program to help employees quit smoking. Smoking increases the risk of heart disease. Give your employees the resources and support they need to quit.
- Consider a heart wellness promotion. The American Heart Association recommends regular screenings starting at age 20 so that problems can be identified and treated early. Check here for more information about recommended screenings.
- Use the CDC Worksite Health ScoreCard to determine whether you’re doing all you can to prevent heart disease at work.
Need assistance? Contact Heffernan’s group health and wellness experts anytime. We can help your company with employee benefits plan design, wellness initiatives and self-insured/captive programs to help you take control of the high cost of health care.