'Hire slowly' and carefully to avoid costly mistakes
Heart-healthy holidays can kick off more productive new year
Americans are rapidly gaining weight. From Thanksgiving to New Year’s, it’s easy to over-indulge and pile on extra pounds, adding to a growing concern for workers individually and for companies collectively.
Two-thirds of American workers are carrying around too much unhealthy weight. Bradley Hutchins, physician assistant at Baptist Health Paducah, said that hurts not only their health, but also their employers’ pocket books.
A recent study by scientists at RTI International Health, Social, and Economics Research and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the yearly costs to the employer for an obese worker can reach $2,500 per year.
“The costs of employee obesity and obesity-related illnesses, including productivity loss and lost work days, are growing,” Hutchins said. “As healthcare costs increase, so does the cost to businesses and their employees in higher health insurance premiums and out-of-pocket expenses.”
Obesity is defined simply as too much body fat. Specifically, it means a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or about 30 pounds overweight.
Too much body fat is caused by taking in more calories than are used in physical activity and daily life.
The National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys show significant increases in obesity in the last 20 years. In the late 1980s, 20 percent of American workers were obese and 33 percent were overweight. Now, Hutchins said, 30 percent are obese.
Patrick Withrow, M.D., medical director of the Baptist Heart Center, said extra weight puts a great strain on the heart by forcing it to work harder to pump blood to the arteries. It also:
- Raises blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels, clogging your arteries.
- Lowers HDL “good” cholesterol, the cholesterol that works to clear your arteries.
- Raises blood pressure, which puts an extra strain on your heart and arteries.
- Can lead to diabetes, another risk factor for heart disease.
Taking care of your health is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself and your employees. Remember to practice heart-healthy habits not only during the holidays, but also throughout the entire year:
- Eat better. Start by knowing how many calories you should eat and drink to maintain your weight. Don’t take in more calories than you know you can burn up every day. Adults need fewer calories as they age. For example, an active 31-year-old man needs about 3,000 daily calories, but an active 50-year-old man needs only about 2,800 calories a day to maintain a healthy weight. Choose and prepare foods with little or no salt. Cut back on foods high in dietary cholesterol and those containing partially hydrogenated vegetable oils.
- Exercise. According to the latest joint guidelines from the American Heart Association and American College of Sports Medicine on physical activity, all healthy adults 18 to 65 should get at least 30 minutes of moderately-intense activity five days a week.
- Reduce your cholesterol. Whether by diet modification, exercise, medication or a combination of the three, follow your doctor’s advice to keep your numbers in check.
Employers can help by offering employees at-work wellness programs or discount gym memberships. “It will take three to five years to show returns on this investment,” Hutchins said, “but in the end, those returns can be big: Reduced absenteeism, increased employee job satisfaction and lower insurance costs.”
Baptist Health Paducah offers the American Heart Association’s Start! Walking Program free to area businesses. For information, go to westernbaptist.com or phone (270) 575-2777.
Meanwhile, Dr. Withrow offers some holiday tips:
- Cook healthy: Cut down on saturated fat in creamy dressings by mixing in some nonfat or low-fat plain yogurt. Substitute chopped vegetables for some of the bread in your stuffing recipe.
- Never attend a holiday party hungry! Snack a little on healthy foods at home before you go so you don’t over-indulge later.
- Wait 20 minutes before getting seconds. You’ll often find that you’re no longer hungry.
- Start a new healthy holiday tradition like walking around the neighborhood to view Christmas lights. You’ll spend time with family, while getting great exercise.
“Resolve now,” Dr. Withrow said, “to have a heart-healthy holiday season and a healthier new year.”
Dona Rains is marketing director at Baptist Health Paducah. She previously served as the public relations coordinator at Paducah Public Schools and a writer and editor at The Paducah Sun.