February is the British Heart Foundation’s, National Heart Health Month and we are all encouraged to learn as much as possible about looking after our hearts
Many deaths and preventable disabilities in the UK are caused by heart related illnesses, but making some simple changes can improve your chances of avoiding these diseases.
A good diet is vital for overall health, but it is even more important when it comes to health of the heart. However, if you work in an office environment, sticking to healthy food choices can be particularly difficult. Birthdays, celebrations, leftovers and general “pick-me-ups” are all good excuses for people to bring unhealthy food into the office.
Saturated fats raise cholesterol levels and increase the risk of heart disease. Foods such as cakes, biscuit and dairy products are all generally high in saturated fats.
Sugar raises your heart rate and any unused energy will be stored as fat, which can increase the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Salt raises blood pressure and increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
Try to encourage staff to make healthier choices by offering nutritious meals in the canteen, providing fresh, low sugar snacks throughout the day and ensuring that low sugar drink options are available.
Education is an extremely important factor in helping people to make informed choices about their diet. The British Heart Foundation has some great resources on their website that you could use to provide staff with information about well balanced diets and portion control.
The heart is a muscle and requires regular exercise in order to stay strong and healthy. Unfortunately, spending the majority of the working week sat at your desk means that fitting regular exercise in to your day can be difficult.
With some small changes to equipment, alongside motivating tasks or challenges organised by management, it can be easier and more fun than you think to get a good amount of movement into your working day.
For example, sit/stand desks or monitor risers can be a great way to get staff on their feet throughout the day. Step challenges are also a fun way to build morale as well as keeping employees active. If you don’t already have teams within your business, divide your workforce up as evenly as possible and supply everyone with a pedometer. Give every team a week to complete the most amount of steps and think of a healthy reward for the winners.
Mental and Emotional Health
Employers should also strive to look after the mental health and overall wellbeing of their employees as stress can have a detrimental impact on heart health. Employers should make sure that their staff are aware of the help that is available to them if they find themselves struggling emotionally or mentally.
You could create information leaflets, posters or emails to let people know about support available to them within the business and outside agencies that can help. Workshops are also a great way to get people involved and educated or finding a new hobby which can help people to care for their wellbeing outside of work.
Training and Education
For every minute that somebody in cardiac arrest doesn’t receive defibrillation, their chances of survival drop by 10%. Having a defibrillator and trained staff on site could save a life. First aid training should be provided regularly and as many staff as possible should be invited to attend.
Employees should also be made aware of the risk factors that can cause heart disease and illness such as high blood pressure, diabetes and smoking. Information and support in controlling these risk factors can help staff to take back control of their health and avoid more serious conditions in the future.