By Bill Olson
Chief Marketing Officer at United Benefit Advisors
As wellness programs continue to flourish particularly among large employers, a discovery is being made about one of the most important health conditions – hypertension. Hypertension (also known as high blood pressure) is a medical issue where the pressure of the blood in a person’s cardiovascular system is constantly elevated. According to the Mayo Clinic, a person can have high blood pressure for years without any symptoms. Yet even without symptoms, damage to arteries, blood vessels, and even the heart continues until serious health issues, including a heart attack and stroke, happen.
According to an article on the website of Employee Benefit News titled, “Many employees unaware of hypertension,” the discovery is that almost 70 percent of employees whose hypertension was detected during workplace health screenings were completely unaware they had the condition. The research was published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.
So, why should employers care? Aside from the serious health concern this poses to the employee, this lack of awareness is costly to an employer whether or not an employer provides health insurance. Hypertension adds more to an employer’s health care costs per employee than any other condition including depression and mental illness. People who have high blood pressure miss more work days versus people without the condition.
The good news for both employers and employees is that hypertension is one of the easiest things to test and one of the most cost effective wellness screenings. Testing can be done on-site, via kiosks, or as part of a full biometric program. Furthermore, if hypertension is discovered, it’s easily controlled with diet, exercise, lifestyle changes, and medicine. The research previously referenced noted that people who are overweight (or have a poor diet), have a sedentary lifestyle, smoke, or diabetes have a greater chance of undiagnosed high blood pressure.
The sooner a person realizes they have hypertension, the sooner they can get the treatment necessary to improve their health. Employers should consider implementing the following strategies to improve the health of their workforce.
Because so many employees are unaware they have hypertension, education is an important first step. May is National High Blood Pressure Month, so it’s a great opportunity to motivate employees to get screened. Healthy eating and drinking can be supported through the stocking of vending machines with low-sodium snacks and beverages. Exercise should be encouraged as often as possible as a great way to lower blood pressure.
There’s no sure-fire way to alleviate hypertension that all employers and employees can agree on, but there’s no denying that a healthy workforce improves productivity and reduces employer costs. By utilizing multiple strategies for combating hypertension, employers and employees can reach a common goal.
The 2015 UBA Health Plan Survey revealed that 67.5 percent of employers offering wellness programs include biometric screenings as part of their program, an increase of 6.5 percent from the previous year. The use of wellness seminars is also on the rise. If you offer these wellness tools, be sure your provider is addressing hypertension.