A healthy workplace begins with well-informed employees. February, National Heart Health Month, is the perfect time to help employees understand what conditions or lifestyle choices may increase their risk of heart disease, and what they can do to get back on track

Cardiovascular disease isn’t just a problem for individuals and their families. It’s also a big threat to the American workforce. Cardiovascular disease costs $36.4 billion in lost productivity per year. By 2035, the American Heart Association projects that nearly half of the US population will have some form of cardiovascular disease, indirectly costing businesses an estimated $368 billion.

Heart disease isn’t something that only happens to older adults. In fact, the CDC reports that younger adults are increasingly becoming more at risk due to lifestyle choices. About half of all Americans (47%) have at least 1 of 3 key risk factors for heart disease: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking. That said, it’s important to remember that heart disease – and the conditions that lead to it – don’t happen overnight. 

Help your employees understand the risk factors that can lead to heart disease and other CVD-related chronic diseases. Here are a few simple things you can do to create a healthy workplace environment that encourages employees to stay active and adopt healthier lifestyles. 

10 Ways to Create a Heart Healthy Work Environment 

1. Refresh your conference or client-meeting snack menu. Instead of breakfast pastries or late afternoon cookies, offer fresh fruits or protein-based choices like hard-boiled eggs, turkey roll-ups, or greek yogurt. 

2. Offer a brown bag style lunch and learn series with guest speakers on health, nutrition, and stress management. Programs like these are a great way for employees to learn what habits to drop, what needs to be tweaked, and how they can get started. Moreover, offering this type of programming shows that your company cares about its employees health whether they’re on or off the clock. 

3. Offer healthy lunch options like vegetarian dishes or plant-based proteins instead of burgers and fries. Food has a direct impact on performance and productivity. Unhealthy lunch options can release glucose too quickly, giving employees a quick energy boost before causing them to crash. Heart healthy choices that foster the production of dopamine, like veggies and fruits, help people avoid the dreaded after lunch slump and increase feelings of creativity, curiosity, and motivation. 

4. Get people moving. Start small by encouraging managers to host walking one-to-one meetings with supervisees or invest in a corporate fitness solution. Even if it’s only a quick 15 minute walk around the building, doing something active will help your team return refreshed, clear headed, and ready to tackle afternoon tasks. 

5. Encourage people to take the stairs by posting signs with healthy living tips near elevators and escalators. 

6. Create a step challenge. Up the ante with prizes that encourage healthy habits like a FitBit or Apple Watch. 

7. Create a company team for local 5Ks or charity runs and work with your corporate communications team to share event photos on internal and external communications channels. 

8. Publish a workplace wellness newsletter that shares inspiring stories from company wellness champions, information about upcoming fun runs, and tips for staying active during the day. You can also include healthy packed lunch recipes and healthy office snack ideas. 

9. Offer a standing desk option to current employees and include information about how to sign up for one in your company’s onboarding materials. 

10. Host a hydration contest by challenging employees to drink at least 8 glasses of water a day for 30 days. Incentivize participation with branded company swag. 

Promote Heart Health Year Round

Preventative steps, like the ones above, are a big part of keeping your workforce happy and well. Commit to improving your workplace environment by engaging the right people during American Heart Health month – and beyond.