Employers can be involved in managing heart disease from the very start of the employment process, if a potential recruit declares that they have a heart condition.
If the employer has an occupational health provision, the employee will be contacted to clarify the clinical picture and the likely impact the condition may have on their employment, in terms of capability to undertake the role and the need for any necessary adjustments.
An employer may also become aware of an employee suffering a cardiac condition, either through sickness absence or deterioration in performance. Occupational health’s involvement is important at that stage to assess the employee, request further information from their GP or specialist, then provide appropriate guidance to the employer on how to support the employee at work.
An employer can get involved in preventing cardiac conditions, but this is often overlooked, either because of financial restraints or a lack of specialised knowledge about how to implement an effective health promotion programme.
With coronary heart disease causing more deaths than any other single disease, efforts should be made in the workplace to encourage employees to adopt a healthy lifestyle and avoid the risk factors for heart disease, which include obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, physical inactivity and smoking.
Encouraging employees to adopt an active lifestyle, including some form of moderate exercise, for example cycling or fast walking, for at least 30 minutes a day, can help to improve their health.
Other measures include offering a healthy menu option in the workplace canteen and issuing health promotional information through leaflets, online channels or social media, helping to raise awareness of heart problems and tackle this major killer.
Dr Yousef Habbab is senior occupational physician and deputy to the medical director of Axa PPP healthcare’s Health Services division.