Supporting heart health

BLOG ARTICLE | By The Simplyhealth Team

InsightsHealth and wellbeing > How employers can support heart health

BLOG ARTICLE | By The Simplyhealth Team | 8th February 2021

The health of the UK workforce is one of the most pressing issues affecting employers today. The statistics relating to the ‘big three’ health conditions that affect people most in the UK – cardiovascular disease, cancer and strokes – provide sobering reading.

Around 43,000 people under the age of 75 in the UK die from heart and circulatory diseases each year1. Every two minutes someone in the UK is diagnosed with cancer2, and one quarter of the 100,000 strokes that happen every year in the UK occur in people of working age3.

Heart health in the UK

Heart and circulatory diseases are common in the UK. There are around 7.4million people in the UK, who live with them. That’s about twice the number of people living with cancer and Alzheimer’s disease combined1. And sadly, more than a quarter of all UK deaths are caused by heart and circulatory diseases – around one death every three minutes1.

There are some common risk factors associated with heart conditions. Smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, an unhealthy diet and lack of exercise can all increase chances of heart disease. Thankfully, there are a number of ways you can help your employees on a journey to improved heart health. Here are some ideas:

1. Wearable devices and health trackers

Technology has made it easier than ever to understand our current health status. Wearable devices, such as Apple watches and Fitbits, alongside health tracker apps are great methods for supporting many aspects of employee wellbeing.

When it comes to heart health, this technology can help us keep a check on heart rate, but also encourage healthier behaviours through reminders to stand up from the desks more often, increase physical activity levels, or simply drink more water.

2. Healthy eating options

Providing healthy snacks in the workplace, such as free fruit, is a great way to encourage healthy eating. But while many of us are working from the safety and comfort of home – with unlimited access to the biscuit tin – how can you motivate employees to make healthy choices?

At Simplyhealth, we’ve organised a series of healthy food webinars and a live cook-a-long workshop for colleagues. You could also consider sending some guilt-free snacks or healthy recipes. Companies like Graze and HelloFresh offer a services to send snack boxes and meal kits directly to employees.

3. Increasing physical activity

Perhaps one of the most important parts of looking after your heart is physical activity. And this can be a challenge in our current remote working climate. While subsidised gym memberships or on-site gyms are a popular offering in many organisations (provided by almost two-fifths of employers4), at the time of writing, gyms across the country are closed. So how can you spur employees on to get moving?

In 2020, we launched our 5 Million Step Challenge in support of Diabetes UK. With a fundraising element, our colleagues managed to triple our target by walking, jogging and running over 15 million steps. Another great option is virtual fitness. Many discount providers are currently offering deals on fitness at home classes like HIIT training, cardio, yoga, and pilates.

4. Lowering stress

While stress alone doesn’t cause heart and circulatory diseases, it is linked to unhealthy behaviours that can increase the risk of heart problems. When stressed, you’re more likely to turn to habits like smoking, eating comfort food or drinking too much. Worryingly, work-related stress is on the up – our workplace wellbeing research with the CIPD reveals that nearly two-fifths of organisations have seen an increase in stress-related absence over the last year4.

There has though, been a positive increase in the number of employers taking steps to identify and reduce stress at work such as offering flexible working options, access to an employee assistance programme, or providing training for line managers to help manage stress within their teams4.

Employers are well-placed to support employees in improving their heart health, making these healthy habits a part of working life. There are plenty of tools for employees to take advantage of. Visit the Healthy Living Hub for heart health resources you can share with your workforce.

If you would like to read the full CIPD/Simplyhealth Health and Well-being at Work 2020 report, as cited in this article, please follow the link below for more details on how to download it.

  1. British Heart Foundation: UK Factsheet, January 2021
  2. Cancer Research UK 2020: Cancer Statistics for the UK
  3. Stroke Association 2018: State of the nation: Stroke Statistics
  4. CIPD/Simplyhealth Health and Well-being at Work 2020 report