For the past 80 years, heart disease has been the leading cause of death in the US. Today, roughly 92 million American adults are living with some form of cardiovascular disease or the after-effects of stroke. Approximately 1 in every 3 deaths lists cardiovascular disease as the underlying cause, and costs to manage those afflicted, continue to rise.
In 2016, it was estimated that the direct and indirect costs of cardiovascular diseases and stroke totaled more than $316 billion; this includes both health expenditures and lost productivity in the workplace.1
While these facts may seem bleak, the reality is that conditions of the heart continue to burden our health care system for reasons that aren’t as dire as you might think.
First, with the advancement of modern medicine, diseases related to infections, accidents, cancers and other illness are reduced, leaving cardiovascular disease at the top.
Second, those living longer now include members of the baby boom generation. This generation could fuel a 75% increase in the number of Americans aged 65 and older.2 As we age, it is more likely that heart conditions will manifest; and with the largest aging population than ever before, this fact might skew numbers.
Lastly, poor lifestyle which greatly contributes to all chronic disease and associated costs, does thankfully, have a silver lining. Lifestyle, and conditions related to lifestyle, play the largest role in preventing and managing heart disease. These factors can not only be improved, but in many cases reversed, which is where employers can make a big difference!
In the last decade, workplace disease prevention programs have aimed at reducing risk factors associated with chronic disease. These risk factors include: poor diet, physical inactivity, smoking, excessive alcohol intake and poor stress management. When these factors are addressed and corrected, the conditions associated with them can also be decreased. These conditions include obesity, hypertension, cholesterol abnormalities and type 2 diabetes.
In the case of heart disease, when each of the above factors is addressed, prevalence rates related to both diagnosis and mortality drop. In addition, patient visits are reduced, surgery is less often required, costs associated with recovery lessen, drug use is cut, and workplace productivity is gained.
Consider the fact that an estimated 25% to 30% of companies’ medical costs per year are spent on employees with the major risk factors listed above.3 Think of the potential savings which happily coincide with improved employee well-being.
So, the next and the more important question is what makes an effective disease prevention program?
According to studies posted in the journal Circulation, followed by reviews in the CDC, the foundation of an effective disease prevention program consists of the following: The administration of health risk appraisals and screenings; education and implementation of programing related to healthy eating, stress management and smoking cessation; the promotion of increased physical activity; and a formula consistent with employees’ readiness to make behavior changes. 3,4 When these core strategies are set in motion, health improves and the savings begin. The key driver of success is ensuring that the engagement strategy is tailored to each at-risk individual to create a meaningful experience which is ultimately tied to sustainable outcomes.
Heart disease remains the leading cause of death for both men and women. By the year 2030, the estimated global cost of cardiovascular disease is estimated to rise to roughly $1.5 trillion.1
On average, Americans working full-time spend more than one-third or their day, five days per week at the workplace. This makes the workplace an excellent place for intervention.
This February, why not celebrate heart health month by beginning, promoting, or refining a workplace disease prevention program that is hyper-personalized and heart-worthy. The results are undeniably a win-win, benefiting employee, employer and the entire population.
Happy Heart Health Month!