Heart Health is Good Business

Just in time for National Stroke Awareness Month and High Blood Pressure Education Month in May, we’re pleased to share the CDC Foundation’s new Business Pulse: Heart Health. The online edition highlights resources, programs and best practices from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) aimed at helping employers and their workforces encourage and practice heart health in the workplace. 

Cardiovascular disease is America’s number one killer. Every 43 seconds, someone in the United States has a heart attack, and on average, one American dies from a stroke every four minutes. CDC estimates that at least 200,000 cardiovascular deaths could be avoided each year. With 155 million Americans in the workplace, worksites are an excellent setting in which to promote ongoing health and wellness every day.

Poor heart health can be a considerable economic burden on businesses and employees alike. According to the American Heart Association, an estimated 20 to 30 percent of companies’ annual healthcare costs are spent on employees with risk factors that can be modified. These include the top seven risk factors—cigarette smoking, obesity, hypertension, high cholesterol, physical inactivity, poor diet, and diabetes—all of which impact cardiovascular health.

There are many steps business leaders can take to promote heart health and lower costs in their places of work – and those looking for resources can start with Million Hearts®. A national effort led by CDC to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes by 2017, Million Hearts® aligns public and private initiatives—including those of employers—across the United States and provides action steps employers can take

These resources empower business leaders to promote heart health as part of a larger effort to encourage workplace health and safety. Employers can assess and improve their worksite’s health promotion programs by using CDC’s Worksite Health ScoreCard. A review of 42 studies found that worksite health promotion programs can lead to reductions of more than 25 percent in absenteeism, health care costs, and disability/workers’ compensation costs. 

Providing employees with information about the importance of healthful living and the risk factors for heart disease and stroke empowers them to personally take action to improve heart health by engaging in physical activity and smoking cessation, for example. This is also important for their family and friends. 

The Business Pulse: Heart Health interactive infographic walks employers and employees through the challenges of an unhealthy workforce, benefits and resources from CDC, and ways to take action through CDC programs. 

CDC protects the health of the American people, including businesses and their employees, through research and tools that help improve and sustain a high level of heart health. Start off National Stroke Awareness Month in May by pledging your organization's commitment to heart health as a Million Hearts® employer and take the first step toward a workforce of healthier hearts.

Barbara A. Bowman, PhD, is director of the Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention in CDC’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.