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Heart Disease Prevention for Employees 

By: Benefits by Design | Tuesday February 14, 2023

Updated : Wednesday March 8, 2023

Heart disease prevention starts with the individual – from their genetics to their lifestyle. But employers can play a role in helping their employees keep their hearts pumping strong.  

Risk of Heart Disease in Canada 

“Heart disease refers to the buildup of plaque in the heart’s arteries that could lead to a heart attack, heart failure, or death.” – Government of Canada 

According to data from the Canadian Chronic Disease Surveillance System (CCDSS), there are more than 2.6 million Canadian adults over 20 living with heart disease. That’s close to 7% of the total population. And fourteen Canadian adults with a previously diagnosed heart disease die every hour.   

Men tend to get the short end of the stick, as they are 2 times more likely than women to suffer from a heart attack. This may have something to do with the fact that, on average, they are also diagnosed with heart disease approximately 10 years earlier than females. 

Heart Disease Prevention for Employees 

There are some tried and true ways that help with heart disease prevention. Employers can play a role in all of them through support programs and resources available within the employee benefits plan.  

Benefits by Design’s Embedded Enhancements & Value-Added Benefits

No Smoking Please 

Cigarettes wreak havoc on the cardiovascular system. But there are many different options for quitting, along with the change in the way society views smoking, which is helping to reduce overall usage. Employers can also provide smoking cessation coverage through the Extended Health Care (EHC) benefit.  

3 Ways to Help Employees Quit Smoking

Stay Physically Active 

It’s recommended we get about 30-60 minutes of moderate physical activity each day.  

Employers can motivate their workforce with office challenges – such as “walk across Europe” where everyone adds their steps to virtually “walk” a set trek and see who makes it there first. Or you can enter employees into a monthly prize draws each time they use the stairs instead of the elevator.  

There are some great apps and ways to get employees moving. BBD’s EHC comes with embedded extras such as the Change4Life portal through GSCEverywhere – which is rewards employees for healthy lifestyle choices, and Daily Burn – which offers on-demand workouts for all levels of fitness.  

The Employer’s Role in Preventative Healthcare & How It Impacts Benefits

Eat Healthy 

Heart disease prevention starts with what we put into our bodies. Eating a balanced, healthy diet doesn’t have to be exhaustive or restrictive. And small changes over time can lead to better choices.  

Business owners can help employees by eliminating tempting unhealthy options in the office. Substitute them with healthy snacks instead. Try veggies and dip, plant-based coffee whiteners, organic sweeteners (who doesn’t love honey?) and trail mixes. Again, Change4Life can help motivate employees to eat better.  

The Connection Between Mental Health and Eating

Maintain a Healthy Weight 

Excess weight can lead to higher cholesterol, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes. Even lowering your weight by just 3-5% can help with heart disease prevention

New research on chronic obesity and the reasons why we struggle with body weight continues to come out. And along with that come new ways of treating the disease. The stigma surrounding obesity is still a huge barrier, from family, peers, and medical professionals alike, which only compounds the situation. 

Rethinking Obesity and Its Impacts on Canadians and Their Benefits Plans

For employees who require help making changes with their eating habits, they can try services such as MindBeacon, an internet-based cognitive behavioural therapy (iBCT) program that they can access from any device, anytime they need. MindBeacon can also help with many other behavioural changes employees might want to explore. 

Limit Alcohol Consumption 

New Canadian guidelines for alcohol consumption advise only two alcoholic units per week. Which is much stricter than the previous two per day. A very small amount of alcohol can actually work towards heart disease prevention by lowering your blood pressure. But that can quickly be for naught, as drinking too much can lead to high blood pressure, stroke, and even heart failure. 

Employers can provide an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) which offers counselling services and other resources for alcohol and substance use. And ALAViDA is a confidential, stigma-free substance use management program available through the EHC. Both can help employees manage their use while still going to work. 

Stress Management 

It’s no secret that stress and anxiety lead to high blood pressure. Poor mental health and depression can also have cyclical effects on one’s health from poor eating and fitness habits brought on by such conditions. An EAP can provide counselling support and resources. And further counselling can be accessed through the psychologist services in the EHC benefit. Tranquility by Inkblot, an internet-based cognitive behavioural therapy (iBCT) program is designed specifically to address mental health concerns. 

Ensure employees are taking adequate vacation and Personal Time Off (PTO) to make sure they aren’t burning out. And have regular one-on-ones to check in on how employees are managing their workload, their co-workers and other stressful situations. 

8 Ways to Help Employees Reduce Stress and Boost Productivity

Check-in With the Professionals 

It’s important to have regular health screenings. The earlier a medical condition is detected, the more likely it is that medical professionals can help. When it comes to heart disease prevention, the following three screenings should be performed: 

If an employee is diagnosed with any heart disease, they can use the above solutions to help mitigate their risk of heart attack, stroke, and heart failure. Employees covered by the BBD Life Insurance benefit also have access to a Medical Second Opinion (MSO) service, which has medical specialists looks at the results of a diagnosis and provide their own conclusions of the results. They will then suggest a treatment plan and next steps for the employee. 

Employees often forget about the great extras they have access to through their group benefits plan. All of which can help them maintain a healthy cardiovascular system. Encouraging a culture of health and wellness supports employees both physically and mentally, and can help get them through tough times. 

Want to know more about all of the built in extras that could be available in your benefits plan?

Download the BBD Value Adds Info Sheet (PDF: 100KB)