The theme for World Heart Day 2010, "Workplace Wellness:
Take Responsibility for Your Own Heart," is a call to organizations reminding
them about their role in promoting healthy behaviors at work to prevent heart
disease and stroke. The best place to
improve wellness of employees is at the workplace as they spend most part of
the day there. The first step towards health and wellness is creating
awareness, and this can begin at the workplace. The World Heart Federation
(WHF) has urged organizations to promote a heart healthy culture at the
workplace by encouraging healthy
diets, physical activity and a smoke-free environment.
Intelligent organizations will recognize that a
heart healthy workplace impacts employee productivity positively and reduces
healthcare costs drastically, which translates into progress of the
organization. Further, the responsibility for employee health does not rest on
the employer alone. The employee is equally responsible for his health, and
must 'work with the heart' to keep it healthy.
to work with your heart
A healthy lifestyle is the cornerstone of heart
disease prevention which revolves around good habits, diet and exercise.
Lifestyle changes such as these have been proved to lower the risk of heart
Heart Healthy Diet
comprises of foods low in trans fat, saturated fat,
sodium and refined sugars. Vitamins and nutrient rich foods should be consumed
in ample quantities. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains and nuts lower the risk
of heart disease. Antioxidants hold the secret to a healthy heart.
- Those who lead sedentary lives without exercise suffer increased
risk of heart disease, compared to those who engage in moderate forms of
physical activity. It is important to exercise at least 30 minutes in a day for
cardiovascular fitness. Aerobic exercise like brisk walking, swimming cycling,
and jogging are good to promote cardiovascular fitness, though medical advice
should be sought before commencement of any exercise program.
- This is crucial to offset risks of heart disease. The best
way to control blood pressure is through diet, exercise, weight management and
medication (as prescribed by a specialist).
- Smokers carry double the risk of having a heart attack as
compared to non smokers. Passive smokers are also in the risk category. Never
be tempted to smoke and if you do, simply quit.
- The risk for heart disease escalates with increase in
total cholesterol. The cholesterol reading for healthy adults should be below
200 mg/dl. HDL, which is called as the good cholesterol, should be above 40
mg/dl in men and 50 mg/dl in women, the higher the better. For healthy adults,
LDL should be below 130 mg/dl.
A diet which is low in cholesterol, saturated
and trans fat is the best way to keep bad cholesterol at bay. Exercise is a
must to reduce levels of bad cholesterol and increase levels of good
cholesterol. In some cases, doctors prescribe medications to help manage
unhealthy cholesterol levels.
- Uncontrolled diabetes can cause heart damage. Diabetes can be
controlled by taking appropriate medication, following a strict diet, exercise
and weight management.
- Excess weight is a strain on the heart. Excessive weight
increases the risk of many other chronic illnesses. High cholesterol and
triglycerides, diabetes, and high blood pressure are conditions, which can be
triggered due to excessive weight gain. Appropriate lifestyle changes to
include healthy diet and exercise may be the best way to knock off weight gain.
Stress and Anger
- Anger and stress escalate chances of heart attack and
stroke. Appropriate coping strategies to reduce stress and anger can lower
heart attack risks. Anger management and relaxation techniques can go a long
way in improving heart health.
Health and Wellness Program at the Workplace
A sure shot method to reduce staff absenteeism
due to sickness is to inculcate a 'healthy' culture in the organization.
Undoubtedly, those in good health are happy in body and mind and hence can
contribute effectively towards organizational goals. Therefore it makes good
business sense for organizations to invest in health and wellness programs at
the workplace. The gains from such interventions are immeasurable- reduction in
long term healthcare costs as well as improvement in employee morale and
Designing a Wellness Program
A custom-made wellness program to suit the
organization is most recommended. The type of work employees carryout as well
as the number of hours spent at the workplace can be the initial pointers.
Incorporating a wellness program in organizations can be
done in number of ways, and the crucial step to take is to set up an exclusive
committee in charge of health and wellness. Clear description of the objectives
of the wellness program is good to achieve desired results.
Some of the pointers to improve health and
wellness at the workplace is:
• Improve Emotional well-being
• Instill importance of Fitness programs and daily physical activity
• Quit smoking programs
• Stress and anger management
• Weight management
• Work- life balance
A Leaf Out of India's Success Story
disease prevention program was implemented in six industrial worksites
throughout India for four years which showed marked decline in the risk factors
of heart disease among workers. Levels
of cholesterol, blood sugar, blood pressure had reached healthy limits and rate
of tobacco use had also dropped. Diet and lifestyle changes were also evident
among the workers. A study published in 2009 in the Journal of the American
College of Cardiology had carried this success story as a guideline for action
in promoting health and wellness among the workforce.
Globally, such health and wellness interventions
at the workplace have resulted in both employee and employer gains. Mainly they
have helped introduce positive lifestyle changes, which has reduced the risk
factors of heart disease and stroke and helped averting life threatening
cardiovascular events for a number of individuals. Significantly, such wellness
programs helped in:
Remarkable reduction in risk factors of heart disease -
cholesterol, blood sugar, reduction in waist circumference and body weight
• 10% reduction in numbers with blood sugar
• Physical activity increased on a regular basis
• Fruit consumption doubled
• Salt consumption reduced by half
• Stolic blood pressure significantly reduced by 2.8 percent
• Tobacco use came down from 39 percent to 29 percent
Going by the number of India's working
population, estimated to be 30 million people, such health and wellness
programs introduced at the workplace can make a national impact. It is not too
late to begin. Intelligent organizations that aspire to achieve a healthy
bottom-line should know where to begin- After all health of the employee means
wealth for the organization!