February is American Heart Month, and it’s the perfect time to help employees get heart healthy by making disease prevention part of your company culture.
Start by ensuring that your wellness program includes education and activities focused on heart health and how to control various risk factors. Help employees identify and address lifestyle changes with some creative programs and innovative ideas.
Replace fatty food with fun. Filling vending machines and snack boxes with fruits, nuts, and other healthy options, instead of candy and chips, is a no-brainer. But take efforts up a notch. Have a healthy food cooking competition with prizes such as a day off or a gift card. Promote a healthy “food of the month,” such as kale or blueberries, and have a potluck meal where employees bring healthy dishes made with the monthly feature. Have a chef from a local cooking school come in for healthy meal prep demos.
Encourage exercise. Everyone knows physical activity is important, but finding the time and motivation can be challenging. Consider forming lunchtime walking teams, with monthly goals and prizes. Hold a “Dancing with the Stars” style competition with residents/patients as judges. Ask physical therapists to work with interested employees to develop personalized exercise programs based on their abilities, schedules, and interests. Arrange discounts for wearable tracking devices (e.g., Fitbits), and have a monthly lunch where you recognize those who meeting fitness goals. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that adults get 150 minutes of moderate exercise weekly, which breaks down to about 30 minutes of exercise, five days a week. Encourage employees to put this time for physical activity in their schedules.
Limit alcohol consumption. Excessive drinking can contribute to cardiovascular disease, and regular alcohol consumption can lead to problems such as increased blood pressure. Consider holding alcohol-free happy hours and limiting alcoholic beverages at company functions.
Manage weight. Excess weight is one of the most significant contributors to cardiovascular disease, as well as issues such high blood sugar and hypertension. Bring in a professional one or two days a year to assess people’s body mass index (BMI), and have nutritionists available for consultations at these events.
Promote smoking cessation. Having a smoke-free workplace clearly is an important contributor to a heart-healthy lifestyle. However, it also may be helpful to offer smoking cessation classes/programs and/or support groups.
You don’t have to reinvent the wheel on heart health. There are many resources available from the AHA, including The Million Hearts® Collaborative, a national initiative aimed at preventing one million heart attacks and strokes in five years. The AHA also has evidence-based treatment guidelines on heart failure and stroke, plus stroke-related clinical tools and resources.
Heart disease and stroke are the leading killers worldwide, but nearly 80% of cardiac events are preventable. You can help your employees live and work longer and enjoy a better quality of life by encouraging and enabling a few changes. It’s a great way to show a little love for the people who keep your organization’s heart beating.