May has doubled up on its health awareness with both American Stroke Month and Blood Pressure Awareness Month. These two closely related diseases affect millions of Americans each year.
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, affects nearly half of Americans age 18 and older. It is listed as a primary factor in more than 82,000 deaths per year, and it also contributes significantly to the number of strokes that occur each year in the United States. This makes hypertension the most common primary diagnosis in America, responsible for 35 million office visits each year.
Often referred to as the “silent killer,” hypertension is also one of the 10 most expensive health conditions for U.S. employers, with estimates of direct and indirect costs of high blood pressure for Americans reaching $76.6 billion. Strokes and heart disease also greatly contribute to workplace incidents, with more than $130 billion in estimated lost productivity in 2018 alone. With that in mind, it makes sense that employers are increasingly aware of the effects hypertension can have on their workforce.
So, what can employers do to help relieve the effects of high blood pressure and stroke among employees? Consider the tips below to help mitigate risk factors in your workforce, recognize the symptoms and act quickly in case of an emergency.
First, spread awareness of stroke symptoms using F.A.S.T.:
- Face drooping: Ask the person to smile. Does the smile look lopsided?
- Arm weakness: Ask the person to raise his or her arms. Does one slump down?
- Speech: Ask the person a question. Do they slur or make little to no sense when responding?
- Time to call 911: If any of these symptoms are present, call 911 and mention that you suspect this person is having a stroke. He or she needs medical treatment right away.
After calling 911, record the time you first noticed his or her symptoms and keep talking to the person until the ambulance arrives. They can lie down, but don’t let them eat or drink. If the person loses consciousness and stops breathing, perform CPR.
Of course, while emergencies like this prompt quick action, there are also many preventative measures that individuals and employers can take to encourage healthier lifestyles and help workers avoid high blood pressure (as well as possible stroke):
- Lose extra pounds or maintain a healthy weight
- Exercise regularly
- Eat a heart-healthy diet with more whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products
- Reduce sodium consumption
- 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 employees in your company determine whether they are at risk of stroke or developing hypertension is to conduct screenings and introduce high blood pressure monitoring into any employee wellness programs that your business may currently offer. Regular screenings can help eliminate chronic diseases associated with high blood pressure, including stroke and other cardiovascular diseases.
Mercy Occupational Medicine can help you and your leadership team implement strategic plans for health and wellness programming, including onsite wellness fairs that include hypertension and cardiac risk assessments. Get in touch to discuss how Mercy can help support a healthier workforce with these and other wellness initiatives. We provide employers with a variety of onsite options, from annual employee health checks to employee clinics staffed with a provider.
Sources: CDC.gov, AMA Hypertension, Mayo Clinic