If you want to lower your company’s healthcare costs, help employees control their blood pressure for better cardiovascular health.
Compared to heart healthy employees, those with cardiovascular disease cost you approximately one week of absences plus $1,100 in lost productivity a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Reason: People who have their blood pressure under control have fewer sick days, fewer disability claims and improved productivity.
Heart disease is still the No. 1 cause of death in the U.S., not even cancer surpasses it.
Controlling high blood pressure plays a huge role in heart health. From a clinical standpoint, controlling high blood pressure prevents the development of organ failure, and it reduces complications and health risks.
“Sixty percent of people in this country suffer from chronic conditions and many of them overlap,” explained Joel Brill, MD, Medical Director at Hello Heart, during the webinar The impact of heart health on your employee population & your healthcare budget. “So, it’s not that you just have high blood pressure or hypertension. You could also have sleep apnea, diabetes, cardiac arrhythmias, elevated blood cholesterol, obesity, heart failure, kidney disease and other related conditions. That’s why controlling blood pressure is so important!”
Believe it or not, there are over 108 million people in this country with high blood pressure. That’s 47% of adults. And, unfortunately, less than 25% of them have their blood pressure under control.
When you have multiple diseases, you increase the cost of care. For example, people who have high BP and diabetes, their comorbid costs increase over $5,000. For high BP and heart failure the cost increase is almost $7,500.
When trying to help employees control their high blood pressure, remember its prevalence differs by ethnic origin. The prevalence in non-Hispanic Black adults is 54%, in non-Hispanic white adults it’s 46%, in non-Hispanic Asian adults it’s 39% and in Hispanic adults it’s 36%, according to the CDC.
“That hasn’t changed or improved during the pandemic,” said Dr. Brill. “So, populations at risk need help to bring things under control.”
Not to mention where you live also affects the prevalence of high blood pressure. For example, adults 20 and older have a much higher prevalence of high blood pressure in the Midwest and South.
Another group at higher risk is women. Women don’t always have the classic signs of heart attacks, and it often appears as anxiety. In fact, women wait over a half hour longer to call for help. And because of this, women’s mortality rate is two times higher, and they die at a rate three times greater from heart attacks.
“Yet, only about one in six women are really worried about heart disease,” said Dr. Brill. “But it’s the No. 1 cause of death in women. And it’s six times more likely to kill women than breast cancer.”
A final point, people with hypertension are at a 60% higher risk of having complications from COVID-19. “We’ve seen as high as a 400% rise in heart disease deaths during the last year,” said Dr. Brill.
Lowering blood pressure
So why are we going on about high blood pressure?
Because any reduction of systolic blood pressure by 10mm is associated with:
- a 20% reduction of major cardiovascular disease events
- 17% reduction in strokes and coronary heart disease
- 18% reduction in heart failure, and
- a 13% reduction in all-cause mortality, which is dying from any condition.
That adds up to healthier employees and a much lower healthcare usage!
What can Benefits do to help?
February is American Heart Month. Start collecting statistic, like the ones included here. Educate employees on:
- Their risk of heart disease
- The consequences of uncontrolled high blood pressure
- The effect of lifestyle choices on the risk of heart disease, and
- What they can do to get back on track.
Education is important because many people don’t realize they are at risk.
The American Heart Association (AHA) estimates that by 2030, nearly 8 million Americans will be living with heart failure. And conditions like high blood pressure increase the risk for eventual heart failure.
The AHA also estimates that by 2030, heart failure cost will skyrocket to almost $70 billion. Today it’s estimated at $30 billion a year, and 80% of the costs are from hospitalizations.
Healthy work place
How to create a heart health work environment
If your workforce is still mostly remote, provide employees with a list of heart healthy foods, and maybe provide a small stipend for these types of foods. If you’re in the office, provide heart healthy food choices for breakfast and snacks instead of pastries, bagels, chips and candy. Fresh fruit and protein-based foods like hard-boiled eggs, turkey roll-up or Greek yogurt are great, healthy alternatives.
Bring in experts during lunch or on a Zoom call to talk about health, nutrition and stress management. And during the sessions have the experts give advice on how to start new healthy habits and leave bad habits in the dust.
Encourage your employees to move. Maybe organize company walks around the building or in employees’ neighborhoods. You can organize Zoom or office yoga classes. You can also encourage employees to use the steps or park further away from the building, etc.
Nowadays, people can track their step via their phone or device. Consider setting monthly step challenges where people who achieve their steps get points and the “top 10” point gatherers get a prize at the end of the year.
Offer screening fairs where employees can get their blood pressure, cholesterol checked. Awareness of their risk for heart disease can be a game changer for some people.
Make sure your mental health program is on par and encourage people to use it. Especially during this pandemic, you know how stressful it has all been. Remind employees of the options they have to relieve mental stress and encourage them to use.
Offerings things like this show your employees that you care about them. And nowadays, this is what people want. They aren’t interested in working “for the man” anymore. They want companies that are invested in them and causes like heart health!
Offering things like this show your employees that you care about them. And nowadays, this is what people want. They aren’t interested in working “for the man” anymore. They want companies that are invested in them and causes like heart health!