Michael Jenkins: Empower staff to work in a healthy way to support cardiovascular health

In a world where we are increasingly exposed to longer working hours, reduced time for exercise, an increased sugar intake and weight gain, focusing onĀ health in the workplaceĀ could not be more important.

TheĀ Circulation Foundation, the charity affiliated to the Vascular Society of Great Britain and Ireland, is committed to promoting cardiovascular health in all aspects of modern day life.

Within the workplace, staff should be encouraged to adopt a healthy lifestyle by being empowered to both eat and work in a healthy way. Simple measures such as the availability of food and snacks to include healthy options and low-sugar drinks can encourage individuals away from the habit of craving sugar between meals. Allowing enough time for proper meal breaks is more conducive to eating a healthy meal than condoning snacking while continuing to work at a computer. It also encourages mobility and exercise by forcing staff to leave their desks.

Access to drinking water is also vital. While most commuters grab a coffee on the way to work, many do not keep well hydrated throughout the day. This is exacerbated by the dry air associated with air-conditioned offices and the diuretic effect of caffeine. Dehydration combined with immobility in some higher-risk groups can be an additional risk factor for the development of a deep vein thrombosis.

Thankfully, it is now impossible to smoke in most UK working environments, which has both reduced the risks associated with passive smoking and encouraged many to give up. However, smoking remains a way of life for some. Exposure to smoking cessation advice at work can capitalise on the added advantage of peer pressure to help this group stop where other methods have failed. Regular health check sessions can also help, whether run via a local GP practice nurse or an in-houseĀ occupational healthĀ department, which can encourage blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose checks to pick up problems and treat them at an early stage.

Finally, advertising health literature and appropriate screening programmes on staff noticeboards can be a way of targeting workers who do not often visit their GP.

Michael Jenkins is chairman of the Circulation Foundation Committee