We spend most part of our waking hours at the workplace, meeting work schedules and enhancing productivity, in a bid to improve our career. Amid this entire humdrum, have you spared a thought to the fist of life and the driving force, which beats without a break- Your Heart. September 26th, 2010 is World Heart Day, a yearly event held to increase awareness about heart disease which claims the lives of 17.1 million people annually.
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.
AdvertisementIntelligent 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.
How 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 disease.
1. A 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.
2. Get Moving - 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.
3. Control Hypertension - 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).
4. Quit Smoking - 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.
5. Improve Cholesterol Levels - 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.
6. Control Diabetes - Uncontrolled diabetes can cause heart damage. Diabetes can be controlled by taking appropriate medication, following a strict diet, exercise and weight management.
7. 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.
8. Manage 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 productivity.
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
A heart 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!