By Taylor M. Shockey, MPH

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is responsible for 1 out of every 3 deaths in the United States, making it the leading cause of death. CVD illness and death accounts for an estimated $120 billion dollars of lost productivity in the workplace. With approximately 55% of Americans employed, the workplace is an important factor to consider in cardiovascular health research and a viable setting for carrying out health promotion programs.

Just last week, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) published an article looking at cardiovascular health status by occupational group among 21 states using the American Heart Association’s seven cardiovascular health metrics often referred to as Life’s Simple Seven. The data came from the 2013 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS).

The 7 ideal health behaviors or modifiable factors to improve cardiovascular health identified by the American Heart Association include:

  • Not smoking
  • Being physically active
  • Having normal blood pressure
  • Having normal blood sugar
  • Having a normal weight (BMI)
  • Having normal cholesterol levels
  • Eating a healthy diet

Survey responses for each of the seven metrics were scored as either “ideal” (1 points) or “not ideal” (0 points) based on self-reported responses to survey questions. Points were then totaled for each respondent for a score ranging from 0 to 7 with 7 indicating the most ideal cardiovascular health.

The study found that less than 4% of workers achieved the most ideal score of 7, while nearly 10% of workers only scored between 0-2. Transportation and material moving employees and community and social services employees were significantly more likely to have a score of 0-2 compared to the other occupational groups. Additionally, transportation and material moving employees were most likely to score “not ideal” (0 points) for physical activity, blood pressure, and weight (BMI). Research using data from the National Survey of Long-Haul Truck Driver Health and Injury conducted by NIOSH found similar results.

Although the cardiovascular health metrics are considered to be modifiable at the individual level, it is important to consider the impact that...Click here to read the rest of the blog post, which includes occupational factors and resources for both employers and employees.