Put your wellness efforts into the one area that gets your company the most bang for limited wellness dollars and staff time.
The health care industry is massive and often complex. Your workplace communication about the field doesn’t have to be. And if you’re short on resources, it simply can’t be.
Think of your wellness messaging like a sharp arrow, focused on the one area of need that can make a big difference. So if you have to pick just one target for now, make it weight loss and improved blood pressure control.
Here’s how one success leads to another: One of Dr. Curtis M. Rimmerman’s patient’s is a man who has diabetes. Thanks in part to a wellness initiative begun by the patient’s employer, he has lost more than 10 percent of his body weight to get the disease under control. The patient no longer needs insulin, and next year he aims to go off blood pressure medication, Dr. Rimmerman says.
The success story underscores a point you can apply to wellness communication: Help employees attain a healthy weight, and other health benefits will follow like a domino effect. Target one area. You get results in more than one.
“Sometimes we make things more complicated than they need to be,” says Dr. Rimmerman, medical director of Cardiovascular Medicine at Cleveland Clinic. “The medical benefits of eliminating sodium and restricting calories clearly lowers blood pressure and leads to other positive effects.”
Points You Can Make to Employees
Here’s insight you can include in your upcoming wellness messages:
- Your blood pressure rises as your body weight increases. “Losing weight has the biggest effect on those who are overweight and already have hypertension,” Dr. Rimmerman says. Begin with a goal of losing 10 percent of your current weight, which is the healthiest way to lose weight and offers the best chance of long-term success, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
- To lose one pound a week, you only need to burn 500 calories a day more (or eat 500 calories a day less) than usual. “Sustainable results require a realistic mindset,” Dr. Rimmerman says.
- Don’t use BMI as the only arbiter of healthy weight. Body mass index (BMI)—a measure of your weight relative to your height—is the most common measure used to determine if you’re overweight or obese. BMI gives an approximation of total body fat: a value of 25–29.9 indicates a person is overweight; a value of 30 or higher indicates obesity. But BMI alone doesn’t determine health risk, because someone who is muscular or has swelling from fluid retention (edema) likely has overstated body fat. Encourage employees to combine their BMI with waist measurement: A measurement of more than 35 inches in women and more than 40 inches in men is considered high.
- Routine exercise has greater benefits than pill popping. “Sometimes we’re practicing alchemists, and we try our best to make sure medications are working,” says Moshe Lewis, M.D., a physical medicine and rehabilitation physician at St. Luke’s Hospital in San Francisco. “But everyone’s different, and the best way to deal with high blood pressure medication is to prevent the need to take it.”
- Literally, start with small steps. “Going from zero activity to 10 minutes on the treadmill is a huge step in the right direction. These patients need a program that’s sustainable and attainable, one they can come back to day after day,” Dr. Rimmerman says. Graduate to moderate-level activities such as walking one mile in 15 minutes, swimming laps for 20 minutes, or gardening for 30 minutes.
- Eat less salt. You require only about 500 mg of sodium a day, but the average American ingests between 6,900 mg and 9,000 mg.
- Eat more fruits and veggies. According to the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) trial sponsored by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), when people with high blood pressure ate 8 to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables a day and 2 to 3 servings of low-fat dairy foods, they lowered their blood pressure within a month.
- If time or money is of the essence, take a simplified approach to wellness communication and focus solely on weight loss.
- Modify the bulleted points in this article for your next wellness communication.