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Cardiovascular Disease

Why Employers Care

Cardiovascular disease* is the leading cause of death in the U.S., and a major cause of disability. More than 1 in 3 adults has some type of cardiovascular disease, according to the American Heart Association. Heart disease and its precursors are common in the working population as well as among retirees. The risk of heart disease increases with age; the risk is higher for men over 45 and women over 55, and for those with family members diagnosed with heart disease at an early age.

  • Four of the top ten most expensive health conditions to U.S. employers are related to heart disease and stroke (high blood pressure, heart attack, diabetes, and chest pain)
  • In a study analyzing employee health insurance claims of large businesses, the annual mean payment for those with heart-related claims was more than double the average payment of claims for all other conditions

While clinicians have made great progress in treating cardiovascular disease, the epidemic of obesity and its comorbid conditions have increased the number of cases and the cost burden of this condition.

What Can Employers Do?

It is essential for employers, and society as a whole, to get in front of the tsunami of cost that is overwhelming private as well as public payers.

The good news is that 80% of heart disease and stroke can be prevented. The key recommendations for individuals to prevent heart disease and stroke are:

  • Know your blood pressure and keep it under control
  • Exercise regularly
  • Don't smoke
  • Get tested for diabetes and if you have it, keep it under control
  • Know your cholesterol and triglyceride levels and keep them under control
  • Eat a lot of fruits and vegetables
  • Maintain a healthy weight

These recommendations are typically addressed in comprehensive health and wellness programs offered by large employers. Many employers offer biometric screening, scales and/or blood pressure monitoring devices, on-site clinics with personnel to counsel and support employee self-management, fitness facilities and weight management programs, condition management for diagnosed diabetes, and healthy dining options to support increased fruit and vegetable consumption.

Watch the video, A Pioneering Way to Measure Health Care Quality in which Helen Darling discusses a new tool that measures health outcomes. The Global Cardiovascular Risk (GVCR) score is very promising and will benefit employers.



*Cardiovascular disease refers to disorders of the heart (heart disease) and blood vessels (vascular disease). Diseases that fall under the umbrella of cardiovascular disease include coronary artery disease, coronary heart disease, arrhythmias, heart failure, peripheral artery disease, high blood pressure and stroke.

Page last updated: September 25, 2012

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