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"The Heart of it All"

Updated: Dec 27, 2021

Written by Hilda Firempong-Sefah, Client Relationship Coordinator, Wellness Works Canada

February is Heart Health Month, and we at Wellness Works Canada are passionate about well-being and productivity, especially keeping you well so that you don't miss a beat.

Keeping the Beat

The heart beats over 100,000 times in one day and is responsible for delivering 2,000 gallons of blood all over the body. Its health and efficiency directly affect every single system of the body. Scientific evidence has shown that non-active people double the risk of heart disease and stroke, as well as other conditions. The Heart and Stroke Foundation recommends moderate to vigorous physical activity for 150 minutes per week; to put in perspective, this would work out to 30 minutes per day at least five days a week. This physical activity could be taking the stairs instead of the elevator or a fun dance break to get the heart pumping in an office building. A friendly competitive step challenge could be a group motivator and a healthy team building activity to get more people involved. With many companies and organizations working remotely, it is crucial to keep active to maintain optimal heart health. Another innovative way to stay physically active is to use the environment around you (your workspace furniture like your desk and chair if safe) to do exercises such as push-ups and squats using your office chair or the walls and desk as support. Remember to keep active throughout the day can also be achieved.

Healthy eating habits are also crucial in maintaining a healthy heart. According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation, a diet consisting of vegetables, fruit, and low-fat dairy foods helps maintain and improve heart health. Eating healthy snacks during the day and trying out nutritious recipes can make eating healthier a food adventure. In the workplace, offering healthier snacks such as fruit and vegetables in team meetings and break rooms and highlighting a healthy recipe of the week is a practical, easy way to help employees keep their hearts healthy through their eating habits.

Heart Health, Stress, and the Workplace

While there is stress present in everyone's life, it is essential to remember the stress level that an individual has. Their response to it can have a detrimental effect on the body, especially the heart. Negative short-term and long-term stress are harmful; intense stress (even if experienced for short periods) can increase a heart attack risk. Prolonged dis-stress increases cholesterol or blood pressure and atherosclerosis, making the heart's work much more challenging to pump blood through the narrow arteries and veins. Distress releases cortisol into the bloodstream and could lead to other chronic diseases such as diabetes. When an employee experiences unhealthy amounts of distress, their physical body affects their productivity in the workplace. According to the Canadian Journal of Cardiology, cardiovascular disease costs Canadians $21.2 billion in direct and indirect costs and impacts employer benefit plans' cost. The other costs associated with cardiovascular disease can be seen in absenteeism and short and long-term disability claims. Workplace stress is expected regardless of the industry. Employers and employees need to be committed to a healthy, high performing organizational culture by recognizing potential stressors and psychological hazards and, with personal and employer-provided resources, have reduction strategies in place.

Investing in overall employee well-being to manage factors that can impact performance, productivity and organizational health is important. Remember that:

  • Keeping active is key to a healthy heart; you can use the environment around you to stay fit. Try this 15 Minute Workout for Busy Professionals or this Quick Stretching Guide

  • Meals and snack options should consist of fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy foods. Get creative with recipes to keep it interesting and tasty! Check out this webinar on How to Overcome Stress Eating

  • Stress at high levels for prolonged periods of time negatively affects the heart and can increase the risk of heart attacks. Recognize triggers and develop resilience strategies. Need some ideas or assistance? Check out the Resilience Tip Sheet

  • Stress reduction strategies are essential to maintaining a healthy heart. A worthwhile investment could be in a mental health toolkit. Wellness Works Canada has just what you need with their Mental Health First Aid kits and Mindfulness Guide

  • Cardiovascular disease has a direct impact on the Canadian employer as it directly impacts employee productivity and benefit plan costs

  • Investing in employee health to manage factors that impact health is key to creating a healthy, high performing work culture. Begin by assessing your organization’s readiness for change (consider where the organization is at right now, employee needs, and stakeholder needs). For more details and help with getting started, visit Five Step Guide to a healthy performing work culture

  • Want some tailored support with an external audit, employee survey, tailored report, recommendations and a strategy session? Join as an employer member for a reasonable fee

About the Author

Hilda is currently a Workplace Wellness and Health Promotion student at Centennial College, completing her internship here at Wellness Works Canada as a Client Relationship Coordinator. Her undergraduate studies at McMaster University explored the social determinants of health and its affect on health outcomes. She is passionate about promoting healthy behaviours in the workplace through intentional programming and solutions focused on employee wellness and healthier organizational cultures.



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