Hypertension is one of the most common physical health issues today. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly half of all American adults struggle with high blood pressure. With that in mind, it’s no surprise the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) now recommends screening all adults for hypertension.
The USPSTF is a group of independent experts in primary care and disease prevention whose goal is to make evidence-based recommendations to improve the lives of Americans. Specifically, they determine whether medical screenings, counseling, or preventive medications are effective for people who otherwise have no symptoms. It is important to note that the USPSTF does not take cost of a procedures into consideration when making recommendations, which means their guidance should not be used as the sole criteria for determining if employers can generate a return-on-investment from encouraging their employees to engage in those procedures. Since hypertension is considered “the silent killer” because it so frequently presents without any symptoms, it is understandable that the USPSTF would see a benefit in screening even non-symptomatic adults. Screenings are also simple and involve an office-based blood pressure measurement, though regular monitoring should be done before making an official diagnosis.
While hypertension is common, it is important not to ignore its seriousness. Elevated levels can lead to heart disease and stroke, two of the leading causes of death in the US. Men, non-Hispanic black, and white adults as well as those living in the southeastern and mid-Atlantic regions of the US are more likely to have elevated blood pressure. Employers with more at-risk demographics may want to be more vigilant about encouraging screenings to identify hypertension.
Holistic Wellness Programs Can Help
Encouragingly, many people can improve this condition by making lifestyle changes and without medication. This means that wellness benefits have the potential to assist workers in reducing their blood pressure (if it is high) or by ensuring they do not develop hypertension because of other wellness problems. Specifically, a comprehensive, holistic wellness program can help employees:
- Reduce stress and support emotional wellness. Anxiety and mental health issues can lead to higher blood pressure. By providing mental and emotional support with appropriate resources, tools, and content, employees can manage stress levels effectively. This also includes making benefits available like generous time off, financial wellness support, and family and caregiver support, as well as creating a positive work atmosphere that encourages communication.
- Stay physically active. Being physically inactive is a leading cause of disease, and only moderate amounts of regular physical activity can make dramatic improvements in health. Offerings like gym reimbursements, fitness classes, continuous programs that include incentives, and health content reminders to get up and move throughout the day are all ways to encourage employees to add exercise into their routine.
- Focus on good nutrition. Diet is also a contributing factor to high blood pressure. Employees can be supported in making healthy food choices with content on good nutrition, meal ideas, or free healthy snacks and drinks on-site.
- Quit smoking. Tobacco cessation programs have the potential to make a substantial difference in the wellness of workers addicted to nicotine. Smoking and using tobacco has an immediate effect on users by raising blood pressure levels, and its use is linked with damaging arteries and an increase in heart disease.
- Be proactive about addressing health concerns. Benefits are only effective if they are engaging and useful for employees. Telemedicine options or generous and flexible scheduling can allow workers to handle medical concerns proactively, before they create more significant problems. Additionally, nearly half of Americans that should be taking medication to control high blood pressure are not. Make sure benefits allow for easy access to affordable prescriptions, so that those struggling with hypertension can get necessary medication and avoid a more serious health event.
While employers should not force employees to get a blood pressure screening, they can provide content and information on why it is important and how to get it done. While it is best to see a medical professional, blood pressure can be checked at many drug stores where machines are available and effective, doctor-recommended monitors can also be cheaply purchased for home use.