How your well-being program can feature National Health Month topics—in February and every month.
As you probably know, February is Heart Health month. We hope that you are making an extra effort to take care of your heart—and you and your colleagues are getting encouragement and support at work from your well-being program, too!
This is usually the point at which an article or blog post would impress you – scare you, even—with facts about heart disease, whether it’s the number of times or the amount of blood that the body’s hardest-working muscle pumps every day, or a statistic about how many Americans die every day because of cardiovascular disease or just how many of those deaths are preventable with education and action. (If you really want to know, we’ve got a list at the bottom of this post).
But we’re not going to do that. We’re going to do something different. The most recent edition of WebMD magazine got us thinking about healthy habits that we might not associate with benefiting our hearts. Like getting more sleep. There was not one but two different articles that connected sleep with heart health.
The importance of a good night’s rest has been getting more attention lately, probably because our irresistible electrical devices have been depriving more and more of us of the seven to nine hours of sleep that is recommended every night for adults ages 18 to 60.
“Getting enough ZZZs helps lower your odds of developing long-term conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and depression; plus it helps you keep a healthy weight.”1
Getting more exercise and eating more vegetables are two well-known ways to do your heart a favor. But theoretically, nothing could be “easier” than simply falling into bed an hour earlier every night. It’s not quite that simple, of course (insomnia, sleep apnea and the smartphone on the nightstand are just a few obstacles), but you get the point.
In fact, the same article went so far as to suggest that we should leave our phones and tablets outside the bedroom, to remove any temptation. “Studies show that the blue light from smartphone screens can mess with levels of melatonin, the sleep-inducing chemical in your brain, and may even be linked to certain kinds of cancer, diabetes and heart disease.”1
Even better, a good night’s sleep helps more than your heart. It lifts your mood, boosts your immune system and gives your stress hormones a breather. It’s also easier to lose weight, because you have the energy to exercise. Conversely, people who are sleep deprived have a slower metabolism.2
What does all this mean for your well-being program? Besides the obvious ways to recognize Heart Health month—such as encouraging participants to set a goal to eat better or exercise more, or even work with a health coach to meet those goals—you could also sponsor a sleep challenge.
It may be a different way to talk about taking care of your heart, but a sleep challenge forces people to make quality sleep a priority for an extended period of time. In general, challenges are an excellent way to ensure that our acts of well-being carry over into our home lives. What better way to do that than by getting a good night’s rest? For more tips on incorporating challenges into your well-being program, download our e-book, Putting Well-Being Challenges to Work for You.
Whether you choose a challenge or some other creative way to engage your employees throughout the year, National Health Month topics can be a great way to start a conversation with participants. And if you can approach a topic like alcohol awareness (April), childhood obesity (September) or diabetes (November) in a different way, you’re more likely to catch their attention and have success.
Strategies like this help people build lasting habits in ways that work for them. That also happens to be the driving focus behind our well-being solution. Our goal is to enable individuals to interact on their own terms in a consumer-first experience, not to prescribe tasks that promise a benefit.
Most of us know what’s good for us. That’s not the hard part of living a healthy lifestyle. No, the hard part is actually putting what we know into action, whether it’s cutting back on sugar, saying no to one more alcoholic drink or finding the motivation to add a little more physical activity to our daily routine.
Or you could just say the heck with it and go to bed early.
Heart Health Facts
- The average heart pumps 2,000 gallons of blood per day.
- The average heart beats more than 2.5 billion times in a 70-year lifetime.
- About 2,300 Americans die of cardiovascular disease each day.
- You can lower your risk for heart disease by as much as 80 percent with modest changes to your diet and lifestyle.
- Cardiovascular disease, including heart disease and stroke, remains the No. 1 cause of death worldwide: more than 17.9 million people each year.
Source: American Heart Association. February is American Heart Month, 2018.
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