How to educate your employees about their cholesterol levels

While most employers would certainly consider the safety of their employees a priority, it may not occur to as many of them to be concerned about their employees’ cholesterol level.

But, if you take an objective look at what kinds of problems high cholesterol can create for employees — and, by extension, for employers — it makes a lot of sense.

“Lowering the cholesterol of employees should be a priority for employers,” says Debi Vieceli, RN, a Cardiac Care manager for UPMC Health Plan. “Informing employees about the dangers of high cholesterol and what they can do to manage cholesterol levels is something all employers need to consider.”

Smart Business spoke with Vieceli about cholesterol and what employers can do to educate their employees about how to lower it.

Why should employers be concerned about employees’ cholesterol?

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 71 million Americans have high LDL, or ‘bad’, cholesterol and roughly one-third of those get treatment for it.

The diseases that are connected with high cholesterol tend to be more serious, even potentially fatal. High cholesterol levels can lead to heart disease, heart attack and stroke. In fact, the higher the blood cholesterol level, the greater the risk for heart disease and heart attack.

Education about the danger of high cholesterol is important because there are no outward, obvious symptoms.

Moreover, if you have high cholesterol, there are things you can do to change that. Because high cholesterol affects everyone — old, young and in-between, women and men — it is likely a part of every company’s workforce.

What are some approaches an employer can take to help lower the cholesterol of employees?

One approach many employers use is creating fun events that place emphasis on healthy lifestyle choices. A company ‘weight race,’ for instance, is a popular option because it enables employees to set reasonable weight-loss goals. So, too, is a fitness challenge that encourages employees to exercise by participating in sports leagues.

Companies also can encourage physical activity by offering to pay for gym memberships for employees.

Because eating an unhealthy diet is a contributor to high cholesterol, employers can encourage healthier eating through the choices that are provided in workplace cafeterias and vending machines. At catered meetings, the food offerings should include healthy choices.

When you increase your employees’ opportunities to eat healthier, you increase the likelihood that they will.

Can an employer encourage healthy behavior?

Workplace policies have been shown to be able to promote a culture of good health. One important policy that is sometimes overlooked is offering a health benefits plan that allows employees to have regular visits with their physicians.

The sedentary lifestyle connected with the modern workplace also contributes to the development of serious health issues. That’s why creating an exercise area for employees can be a positive, if this is a possibility.

How else can employers take steps to address their employees’ cholesterol issues?

Periodic blood cholesterol screening and health risk assessment programs at the worksite are two ways to identify employees with high cholesterol and help them begin to control it.

One-on-one coaching and lifestyle coaching can also be effective ways to follow up with employees identified as having high cholesterol.

In addition, informational brochures, letters and newsletters can supplement the lifestyle coaching.

Insights Health Care is brought to you by UPMC Health Plan