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British Employers Asked to Help Recognize, Reduce Heart Disease in the Workplace

The UK’s Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) has published an online toolkit for employers to help them promote healthy living among workers and support the rehabilitation of heart disease victims.

Some 1.5 million people now living in the UK have suffered a heart attack. And to help those who are still at work or plan to return, IOSH’s Occupational Health Toolkit includes tips on:

  1. Rehabilitation and how to accommodate someone wishing to return to work.
  2. Signs and symptoms of someone suffering a heart attack.
  3. Helping employees lead healthy lifestyles.
  4. A list of resources to help employers and workers.
    Legal advice on employers’ statutory duties on occupational health.

More than half of the population of the world (58 per cent) spends one-third of their life at work, which can have a big impact on lifestyle choices people make. Employers can help workers develop healthy habits that will help manage heart disease and reduce the risk of a heart attack.

“Our information on heart disease was an essential module to add to the toolkit because heart disease can affect anyone at any time of their life and it’s a duty of employers that they have the health and well-being of their employees at the forefront of their priorities,” said Jane White, IOSH research and information services manager. “Employers are now, more than ever, recognizing that they have a corporate social responsibility to provide a healthy working environment for their employees.”

A new toolkit offers advice for employers on recognizing heart disease and helping workers return to work following a heart attack.

Diseases of the heart and circulatory system account for 191,000 UK deaths each year, while one in five men and one in seven women die as a result of coronary heart disease. And it’s because of this that IOSH is calling on employers to communicate about heart disease more effectively to men.

“Culturally, women have been the ones looking for the signs of poor health, whereas men tend to talk less about their health and aren’t always as keen to go to a doctor, or seek advice from a health professional,” said White. “But as the number of men with heart disease and suffering from heart attacks far outweighs women, businesses should be tailoring their well-being strategies to make them more inclusive and accessible. Knowing how to prevent the condition, or spot early signs will make it much easier to live a full life.”

Symptoms of Heart Disease

Signs of heart disease include chest pain or discomfort; pressure or pain in the arms, neck, jaw or stomach; tiredness; breathlessness; an irregular heartbeat; dizziness; numbness and tingling; nausea or pale, sweaty skin; and loss of consciousness. Some of the main causes of heart disease are smoking, age, genetics, ethnicity, high cholesterol and blood pressure, obesity and diabetes. But factors that often are linked to the workplace – a poor diet, lack of exercise, stress and excessive noise –also can contribute significantly to the chance of developing a heart problem. IOSH is urging workplaces to play their part in reducing many of these risks.

“Work can have a big influence on how active you are, what you eat, and how you deal with stress and mental health issues,” White noted. “Companies can encourage healthy eating and exercise, perhaps by offering annual health checks, introducing corporate discounts for exercise classes and gym membership or even something as simple and low cost as a lunchtime walking group.”

To help reduce mental health issues, which can also have a negative effect on the heart, IOSH advises proper training to help line managers spot the signs of stress in their employees, dealing with it and managing workloads accordingly. They’ll also need to be understanding and flexible in helping employees with heart disease to live a healthy work life.

“Anyone working with heart disease might need their day-to-day tasks changing, or time to attend medical appointments, while others who’ve had time off might need a phased return to work to help recovery,” White advised. “Business with good procedures will find it helps with staff retention, reduces lost time and boosts morale, so it’s better all-round.”

IOSH’s heart disease Occupational Health (OH) Toolkit offers information for employers, employees and the general public about the causes, signs and symptoms and different types of heart issues. IOSH offers additional toolkits for stress, musculoskeletal disorders, skin disorders, respiratory safety and general health issues.

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