Cardiovascular Health Status by Occupational GroupPosted on by
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Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is responsible for 1 out of every 3 deaths in the United States, making it the leading cause of death. CVD illness and death accounts for an estimated $120 billion dollars of lost productivity in the workplace. With approximately 55% of Americans employed, the workplace is an important factor to consider in cardiovascular health research and a viable setting for carrying out health promotion programs.
Just last week, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) published an article looking at cardiovascular health status by occupational group among 21 states using the American Heart Association’s seven cardiovascular health metrics often referred to as Life’s Simple Seven. The data came from the 2013 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS).
The 7 ideal health behaviors or modifiable factors to improve cardiovascular health identified by the American Heart Association include:
- Not smoking
- Being physically active
- Having normal blood pressure
- Having normal blood sugar
- Having a normal weight (BMI)
- Having normal cholesterol levels
- Eating a healthy diet
Survey responses for each of the seven metrics were scored as either “ideal” (1 points) or “not ideal” (0 points) based on self-reported responses to survey questions. Points were then totaled for each respondent for a score ranging from 0 to 7 with 7 indicating the most ideal cardiovascular health.
The study found that less than 4% of workers achieved the most ideal score of 7, while nearly 10% of workers only scored between 0-2. Transportation and material moving employees and community and social services employees were significantly more likely to have a score of 0-2 compared to the other occupational groups. Additionally, transportation and material moving employees were most likely to score “not ideal” (0 points) for physical activity, blood pressure, and weight (BMI). Research using data from the National Survey of Long-Haul Truck Driver Health and Injury conducted by NIOSH found similar results.
Although the cardiovascular health metrics are considered to be modifiable at the individual level, it is important to consider the impact that occupational factors might have on the metrics, including such factors as exposure to chemical and physical agents; workplace stress and adverse work organization related to workload and total hours; shift rotation; job assignment and design; and organizational culture. Additional research is needed to examine the relationship between work factors and cardiovascular health.
Resources for Employers:
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) created the Worksite Health ScoreCard to help employers evaluate their occupational safety and health and health promotion programs for prevention of heart disease, stroke, and other cardiovascular-related health effects. The scorecard includes 125 questions that solicit information on a variety of topics such as occupational health and safety; physical activity; stress management; diabetes prevention; and organizational support.
CDC is also partnering with health care purchasers and providers to reduced health care costs while improving health through the 6|18 Initiative. The 6|18 Initiative offers evidence-based and proven interventions that help prevent both chronic and infectious diseases.
NIOSH’s Total Worker Health program offers simple steps on how employers can begin evaluating their workplace and determining the best ways to improve workplace safety and health.
Resources for Employees:
The American Heart Association offers information on how to manage each of the 7 cardiovascular health metrics as well as a website where individuals can keep track of their heart health information.
CDC also has a National Diabetes Prevention Program that is a lifestyle change program people can join in their local area.
We would like to hear from you. How is your workplace trying to improve the cardiovascular health of its employees? Please share strategies and programs in the comment section below.
Taylor M. Shockey, MPH, is a research fellow in the NIOSH Division of Surveillance, Hazard Evaluations, and Field Studies.