From the May 2021 Mercy Occupational Medicine eNewsletter
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, affects nearly half of Americans age 18 and older and is a primary factor in more than 82,000 deaths per year. This makes it the most common primary diagnosis in the United States, responsible for 35 million office visits each year. Hypertension is also one of the 10 most expensive health conditions for U.S. employers. In fact, the American Heart Association’s Statistic Committee estimates direct and indirect costs of high blood pressure for Americans is $76.6 billion annually. So it makes sense that employers are increasingly aware of the effect hypertension can have on their workforces.
High blood pressure is often referred to as the “silent killer,” because it often shows minor or no outward signs. And approximately 15-30% of U.S. adults have a form of the condition called masked hypertension, meaning their high blood pressure readings are normal during health care visits but elevated when measured elsewhere, like their place of business.
A recent study conducted by a Canadian research team found working long hours can significantly affect an employee’s blood pressure as well. Working between 41 and 48 hours each week was linked to a 54% greater likelihood of having masked hypertension and 42% greater likelihood of having sustained hypertension.
High blood pressure is defined as a diastolic blood pressure of 80 mm Hg or higher or a systolic pressure of 130 mm Hg or higher. Chronic high blood pressure can cause heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and blindness. So what can employers do to help relieve the effects of high blood pressure among employees? Consider these tips for your employees:
- Lose extra pounds and watch that waistline
- Exercise regularly
- Eat a healthy diet of more whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products
- Reduce sodium in your diet
- Limit the amount of alcohol consumed
- Quit smoking
- Cut back on caffeine
- Reduce stress
- Monitor blood pressure regularly
- Get support from family, friends, and coworkers
A great way to help your employees determine whether they currently have or are likely to develop hypertension is to conduct hypertension screenings and introduce high blood pressure monitoring into any employee wellness programs that you currently offer to your workforce. Regular screenings can have a lasting effect on employee health and help eliminate chronic disease associated with high blood pressure.
Sources: CDC.gov, AMA Hypertension, Mayo Clinic