Heart Health Pays

Want to lower health care costs? It’s time to get employees moving.

The American Heart Association has launched an ambitious movement to create a culture of healthy eating and physical activity throughout the country. We’re putting our plan into action where most Americans spend a lot of time: at work. It’s a long-term commitment. And we’re passionate about it. But the more we learn about heart disease and stroke, the more we understand what a huge difference physical activity and healthy eating can make.

The bad news is that as a nation, heart disease and stroke are killing us. In Louisiana alone, we lose over 10,000 people a year to these two diseases. And, 70 percent of us don’t get enough exercise. We don’t have time. We’re not motivated. We’re full of excuses. Our eating habits aren’t much better. Every day, the average American eats more than double the recommended limit of 1,500 milligrams of sodium. This is not only bad for individuals. It also hurts employers. At least 25 percent of healthcare costs for workers are the result of poor diet and lack of exercise. Those are things we can fix.

The good news is all it takes is 30 minutes of exercise a day to put someone on the path to a stronger, healthier life. And a longer life. Studies indicate employees can gain about two hours of life expectancy for each hour of regular exercise. Heart health gets a boost, stroke risk drops, and blood pressure and bad cholesterol stay under control. That can make everyone feel better.

Employers also gain from a healthy workforce. Reducing just one health risk increases a person’s productivity by 9 percent and reduces absenteeism by 2 percent. In fact, every dollar spent on a worksite wellness program nets employers $3 to $15 in benefits.

The key to workplace wellness is buy-in from leadership. Get your top-level executives involved to help get your wellness movement started. Ask these leaders to set the pace by launching the program with a four-week challenge. Workplace wellness is twofold. It has to come from the leadership and the employees. If you provide the resources, your employees will respond. Here are a few simple steps to get started on the path to a healthier workplace:

5 Ways to Create a Healthier Workplace

• Map out a 1-mile walking path on-site. Providing a mapped-out route encourages staff to participate.

• Revamp your vending machines with healthier alternatives. Swap out sugar sweetened beverages for healthier alternatives like  water, juice and milk. Ask your supplier for details.

• Host a CPR training for your team. This can be a great team-building activity and can potentially save a life in an emergency.

• Remove salt shakers from break- and lunchrooms. This simple act reminds employees that sodium consumption is at an all-time high. Offer other flavor options in the break room such as dried herbs and lemon juice.

• Offer lunch-and-learns on healthy topics to promote wellness. Invite speakers to talk on subjects such as diet, exercise and preventive screenings to keep wellness top of mind for your team.

5 Ways to Be a Healthier Employee

• Take a walk on your lunch break. Just 30 minutes of exercise a day can help improve overall health.

• Increase your activity in simple ways.  For example, take the stairs instead of the elevator and park farthest from the door in the   parking lot. These extra steps can help to increase your movement and promotes an active lifestyle.

• Pack your lunch in advance to avoid hasty decisions when hungry. Don’t succumb to an unhealthy lunch choice because you didn’t have time to plan a healthy meal. Take a few minutes to plan your meals for the day. Focus on high-protein, low-calorie foods to keep you fuller longer.

• Wear a pedometer to track your steps during the day. With the goal of 10,000 steps per day, a pedometer can help you keep track of your progress.

• Take advantage of any workplace wellness offerings by your company. There are most likely resources that your company offers that you are not aware of. Ask your superviser or human resources department what is available to you.

The American Heart Association has free resources available including a Workplace Wellness Toolkit, a Food and Beverage Guide, and materials that you can use to boost your companies wellness program.

If your company is currently participating in workplace wellness, consider applying for the American Heart Association’s Fit Friendly Worksite Awards and get recognition for investing in the health of your employees. Get more information and tips on workplace wellness at Heart.org.

Employers with on-site healthand well programs get a lot in return:

• Healthcare costs decrease by 20 to 55 percent

• Short-term sick leave drops by 6 to 32 percent

• Long-term sick leave drops by 2 to 52 percent

Thomas H. Grimstad, M.D. Is the president / CEO of the American Heart Association.
Dr. Grimstad also became the fourth physician to lead LAMMICO (Louisiana Medical Mutual Insurance Company) in the company’s 32-year history when he was appointed president/CEO on January 1, 2008. He previously served as senior vice president of underwriting from 2005 through 2007, and has been a member of LAMMICO’s board of directors since 1998.



Categories: Healthcare, The Magazine