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Blood Pressure and the Workplace

Do you have employees:

  • over the age of 40?
  • feeling stressed at work or at home?
  • with a family history of high blood pressure or heart disease?

If you answered “yes” to any of the points above, your employees have an increased risk of developing high blood pressure or they may be suffering from high blood pressure right now without even knowing it.

High blood pressure (also known as hypertension) can impact employees’ health, costing workplaces in terms of:

  • lost productivity
    Hypertension brings about productivity losses related to premature death and disability amounting to $166.3 million a year (OCDPA - PDF 474KB, 14 of 37)

  • absenteeism
    Hayes et al found that absenteeism increased 80% after hypertensive employees were diagnosed

  • presenteeism
    The estimated average cost of presenteeism is $247 annually per employee with hypertension (American Hospital Association - PDF 311KB, 6 of 12)

What We're Seeing in Peel Workplaces

Data collected in 2009 from 2,628 workers in the Region of Peel found that:

  • 24% of employees indicated they had not had their blood pressure checked in the past year
  • 10% stated they were currently taking medication for high blood pressure
  • 59% stated they had a family history of high blood pressure
  • 14% of employees had a blood pressure reading above 140/90 mmHg

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So What's Normal?

For most people, a blood pressure reading of less than 140 (systolic pressure) and less than 90 (diastolic pressure) is considered normal.

An example of a normal blood pressure reading would look like:

120
80

Systolic Pressure: measures the amount of pressure on the blood vessel walls when your heart beats

Diastolic Pressure: measures the pressure on your artery walls when your heart is at rest (between beats)

(For people with diabetes or kidney disease, less than 130/80mmHg is considered normal)

Blood pressure goes up and down throughout the day according to our activity, stress, and internal biological clock. One high blood pressure reading may not result in a diagnosis of hypertension. But repeated high readings are a reason to see the doctor.

Ongoing high blood pressure affects your heart, kidneys, eyes, blood vessels and sexual function. It puts you at higher risk for heart attack and stroke. The good news is that high blood pressure is manageable or preventable by:

  • making healthy lifestyle choices everyday
  • taking medication as prescribed

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Factors Affecting Blood Pressure & Recommendations

There are many factors that can affect blood pressure. Here are some recommendations for workplaces and tips for employees:

Risk Factors

Workplace Recommendations

Tips for Employees

Factors that Cannot be Controlled: age, family history

  • Encourage employees to go for their annual check-up
  • Ask your Occupational Health Nurse to check blood pressure
  • If you do not have a nurse onsite, consider hiring one on a part-time or casual basis
  • Invite your local Heart & Stroke Foundation in to staff a display or do a presentation on high blood pressure
  • Understand the risk factors and learn how to manage them
  • Have your blood pressure checked at least once a year
  • If your reading is high, see your family doctor
  • What’s normal for you? Know your blood pressure numbers

Stress

  • Implement healthy policies that can reduce stress (e.g., alternate work arrangements )
  • Provide stress management resources, presentations or displays
  • Promote the services of your EAP. If you don’t have an EAP, considering hiring one

Physical Activity

Diet

  • Offer healthy options in your cafeteria and/or vending machines
  • Provide healthy eating materials, resources, presentations and or displays to your employees
  • Be a good example to your staff

Tobacco Smoke

  • Create a comprehensive tobacco policy (PDF, 110pgs, 1.31MB)
  • Find out if your benefits provider covers smoking aids.
  • Promote the services of your EAP
  • Provide educational materials, workshops and/or displays to help employees reduce or quit smoking
  • Encourage employees to use smoking cessation services in your community. These are listed in the adjacent column

Get the help you need to reduce or quit smoking:

Alcohol and Substance Use

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Facts & Stats

  • In 2010, 20% of Peel citizens stated they had been diagnosed with high blood pressure - making it the most common chronic disease in Peel (Region of Peel Health Status Data).
  • Hypertension costs the Canadian health care system an estimated $2.4 billion annually
  • By the year 2025, it is estimated that the number of adults with hypertension will increase by about 60% to a total of 1.56 billion worldwide
  • Almost half of those individuals with high blood pressure don’t know they have it (PDF 681KB, 4 of 20)
  • The direct cost of cardiovascular disease is estimated to be approximately $7.6 billion a year and indirectly costs an additional $14.6 billion due to lost income and productivity

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Additional Resources

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Other Topics

Revised: July 08, 2014

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