On average, one third of your life is spent working. That’s around 90,000 hours over a lifetime. With 44,000 people under the age of 75 dying from heart and circulatory diseases each year, adopting healthy behaviours at work matters. There are many factors known to increase risk of poor heart health: low physical activity, smoking, increased alcohol consumption, high blood pressure and stress, to name a few. Read on to understand how some workplace-specific risk factors play a role in influencing the heart health of you and your team!
Not just workplace-specific, but health risks increase as you age. When it comes to heart health, as you get older you are more likely to experience a build-up of fat in your arteries, as well as hardening of the arteries themselves, which causes high blood pressure and can increase the risk of stroke, heart disease and heart attack.
The areas coming in with the highest risk of poor heart health in the UK fall mainly in the north-west of England and parts of Scotland, whilst the lowest risk is in the south of England. Lifestyle and socioeconomic factors link to explain the increased risk in many of these areas; in more deprived areas you are more likely to observe lower physical activity levels and higher rates of smoking and alcohol consumption.
When it comes to the workplace, a study has suggested that middle aged employees who are not in management positions are more likely to develop heart disease or strokes, with the highest risk being in sales, offices or the service industries. Risk is linked to sedentary jobs or those exposed to unhealthier behaviours that are more common in those industries.
There’s a link between poor health behaviours and industries that have a higher percentage of men in their workforce. This leads to greater risk of poor heart health, again by influencing those lifestyle factors that affect our health. In these industries, it is more common to observe higher alcohol consumption, higher smoking rates and consumption of fast food and unhealthier meal options.
It is known that shift workers are at higher risk of many diseases, due to the difficulty of adequately adjust to changing shift patterns. There’s a 40% increased risk of shift workers having issues with heart health. Although the risk is not understood completely, sleep tends to be disrupted, accounting for part of this risk, but poor lifestyle behaviours (such as smoking, social problems and poor diet) also play a role.
Stress plays a major role in our mental and physical health. Raised stress levels can cause you to be tired, irritable and even increase your blood pressure, potentially causing your heart to race, headaches and sweating. Stress alone won’t cause a heart attack and circulatory disease, but it is linked to unhealthy habits that can increase your risk (e.g. smoking, reduction in physical activity, high-fat comfort food and increased alcohol consumption).
Reduce stress – support yourself and your team to reduce stress levels, encourage office or team chats, take a break from your desks or try walking meetings.
Management style – management style has been linked to increased risk of heart issues, as some of this links to feelings of low job control. Get to know your team and their preferred communication styles; if you have access to profiling, this could help!
Conscious snacking – leaving out a cake or a few bags of sweets at work means you’re more likely to snack on them. Keep them hidden or choose healthier options, such as fruit or nuts.
Physical activity – encourage regular breaks from desks to take a short walk or practice stretching. Try getting outside for walking meetings, or at least try standing for part of them if you need to hold them indoors. Anytime you will be in one position for a long period time, whether working or travelling for work, try and move for a minute or two every hour. Set a step challenge amongst your team and use smart phones or activity tracking watches to compete against each other!
Smoking – If members of your team do smoke, encourage them to quit together. You’re more like to quit successfully with support around you!
Alcohol – cut back when socialising outside of work, and try having a soft drink between each alcoholic drink. Then watch as the number of units you are consuming reduces!
Behaviours at work influence your heart health. Support you and your team in having a healthy heart!