The heart is the symbol of Valentine’s Day. So it’s fitting that the American Heart Association deemed February American Heart Month.
The focus of Valentine’s Day is the heart as a metaphor for romantic love. But we want to talk about the heart health of your employees’ real hearts. This amazing fist-sized powerhouse pumps blood throughout the entire body every minute of every day. Seems fitting we take a moment to explore how to keep this super organ working well.
After all, when your employees thrive, you thrive too.
Studies show that employees with cardiovascular disease lose an additional 56 hours per year in productivity.1 And the work environment has an immense impact on how you help shape the health of your employees.
What can you do to honor their hearts by guiding them to eat well during the month of February — and all through the year?
- Attack the snacks. According to the CDC, about 90 percent of American adults consume too much sodium. And 90 percent of the sodium we consume comes from added salt.2 Vending machine snacks are often high in sodium. While you can’t always eliminate the salty treat section, you can focus on positioning the healthier options at eye level, or implement healthy nutrition criteria to be sure the food you are making available falls within heart healthy guidelines.
- Empower with education. With all of the nutrition headlines, food labels, diet trends and talk of the latest superfoods, it’s hard to sift through what a “heart-healthy” food choice is these days. Connect your employees with evidence-based, simple strategies around:3
- Adding more and new fresh fruits and vegetables into their diets
- Limiting extra sugars
- Trying a variety of fish on a weekly basis
Remember, it’s the overall pattern of our choices that counts.
- Put a policy where your talk is. Create healthy eating guidelines at the workplace. Incorporate healthy catering policies to provide clear and practical guidance on nutritious, food options for meetings and work events. Partner with on-site food service providers (cafeterias/convenience stores) to align your company’s nutrition vision with the items being offered. Emphasize healthy entrée options. Provide clear visuals on better-for-you choices. And position healthy items at influential point-of-sale decision points.
- Get local. Your business is an influential leader in your community. Collaborate with local resources to bring healthy eating on campus. Examples include community gardens, subsidized supported agriculture (CSA) and farmers’ markets. And extend your reach and positive impact off-campus by partnering with area restaurants and food delivery services. Together, promote nutritious meal options for employees traveling off-site for lunch or bringing meals home to their families.
- Establish yourself as an Employer of Choice. Publicize your nutrition strategy regularly. Fold it into broader company initiatives. Encourage feedback and participation by your employees. Set expectations that all managers and supervisors will be involved. And align it under a unified mission and vision.
A registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) can be a key resource for you to incorporate all of these ideas into a dynamic worksite nutrition strategy. An RDN can help you maintain the momentum all year through. To learn more, visit optum.com.
Join the conversation! What steps are you taking to support your employees during American Heart Month? Tell us about them in the comments below or on our social media pages.
1 . Cardiovascular diseases affect employers [Pamphlet]. (2017). American Heart Association. https://optum.co/2b52z. Accessed Jan. 24, 2019.
2 . Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention. Sodium fact sheet. https://optum.co/ts5mu. Accessed Jan. 24, 2019.
3 . American Heart Association’s diet and lifestyle recommendations. https://optum.co/cvel2. Accessed Jan. 24, 2019.
About the Author
Alison Purkey, RDN
Product Director, On-Site Registered Dietitian and Nutrition Services, Optum
Alison Purkey has worked in the health and wellness industry for more than 10 years. She began her career as a clinical dietitian and then transitioned into the field of population health management. Throughout her professional career, Alison has lived out her passion for improving the well-being and quality of life of individuals, organizations and communities. She pairs her clinical background with her experience in client relationships, workplace culture and industry market trends.