High blood pressure, or hypertension, is an epidemic in the U.S., affecting nearly half of all Americans. How does this affect your employees — and your budget?
Updated hypertension guidelines from the American Heart Association
In late 2017, the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology released new guidelines for defining high blood pressure. The threshold for hypertension was lowered from 140/90 mmHg to 130/80 mmHg. This lower threshold will lead to earlier identification and intervention for those at risk, avoiding dangerous complications, permanent disability or even death.
High blood pressure: costs to employers
High blood pressure is one of the most expensive health conditions for U.S. employers, costing an estimated $518 per year per employee. In addition, high blood pressure is a major risk factor for developing cardiovascular disease, which includes heart disease and stroke. Employees with cardiovascular disease cost their employers an extra $1,100 each year in lost productivity alone, compared with healthier employees.
High blood pressure rarely causes symptoms. Many people with high blood pressure don’t know they have it, and many who are diagnosed don’t keep up with lifestyle changes or prescriptions to keep their blood pressure in check. But without treatment, high blood pressure can lead to stroke, heart attack, kidney damage, and other serious health problems.
5 ways to help your employees lower blood pressure
Reducing blood pressure below 120/80 mmHg lowers the risk for heart disease by one third. Lifestyle changes alone can go a long way toward bringing blood pressure to a safer range – and medications are available for when lifestyle changes aren’t enough. But many people with high blood pressure don’t know – it’s known as “the silent killer,” because it rarely causes symptoms, even as damage is being done. Through education and by encouraging screenings, healthy lifestyles, and appropriate disease management, employers can play a big role in guiding employees to better health.
Integrate medical and pharmacy benefits to close care gaps. Integrated care can result in employer savings of over $8 PMPM for cardiovascular conditions, including high blood pressure. Care gap alerts give doctors a window into whether patients are taking medications as prescribed, so they can customize care plans accordingly.
Encourage medication adherence. Compared with people who take their medications as prescribed, people who don’t have five times the risk of hospitalization and death, and have medical costs four times higher. Integrated care offers the benefit of medication reminders, home delivery, and counseling from pharmacists. These low-cost interventions are shown to improve medication adherence and reduce health risks.
Raise awareness of hypertension among your workforce. High blood pressure can be treated easily, often without medication, when it is discovered in its early stages. Early diagnosis limits the damage to your employees’ health, as well as the treatment costs associated with severe hypertension and heart disease. On-site blood pressure screenings, along with learning lunches, educational emails, and other wellness initiatives, can drive early diagnosis and intervention.
Offer diet, exercise and smoking cessation programs. Weight loss, dietary changes and increased physical activity are recognized as some of the best proven ways to prevent and treat high blood pressure. Getting your whole workforce involved reduces your employees’ health risk, and lowers costs for everyone.
Promote your wellness programs. When launching health and wellness initiatives, be sure to cultivate top down buy-in. When employees see participation and enthusiasm from senior management, they are more likely to get involved and report positive outcomes.
Get more information about how you can help prevent hypertension and reduce health care costs for your employees with the free “Successful Business Strategies to Prevent Heart Disease and Stroke Toolkit” from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. To learn more about how integrated benefits can improve your employees’ health and reduce costs, visit integratedpharmacybenefits.info.high blood pressure