What will it take for you to get serious about living a healthier lifestyle? Does money talk? For some it apparently does. Last weekend, I read in The Courier-Journal that Louisville’s General Electric is rewarding white collar workers at the plant up to $500 in annual fitness awards. The company also is promoting high-deductible insurance plans for its salaried workers in another effort to curb health care costs. What GE is doing shouldn’t surprise anyone. Since joining Norton Healthcare as the manager of prevention and health marketing, I have paid close attention to issues aimed at keeping us healthy – and what I’ve learned is frightening. A huge percentage of skyrocketing health care costs are due to things that are preventable! The Thomson Reuters Workforce Wellness Index says the unhealthy behaviors of the U.S. workforce cost employers an average of $670 per employee. Four hundred dollars of that is tied to obesity. Elevated blood glucose was the second most significant factor, accounting for nearly $150 per employee. Now consider that in Kentucky and Indiana, one in three of us is considered obese as measured by body mass index, a ratio of height to weight. We are slowly but surely killing ourselves.
A Sacramento, Calif., newspaper reported that 50 percent of the determinants of health are due to our own behaviors, meaning that the majority of costly health conditions like obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease are preventable. But it’s not the cost to America that bothers me most. It’s the shortened lives of people who must think that their choices won’t ever affect them. That’s where they’re dead wrong. Poor choices will catch up with us one way or another. The time to change is now.
Start by making an appointment with your primary care physician, who can help you set realistic health goals. Next, know your numbers: things like your BMI, LDL an HDL cholesterol and blood pressure. Make it a goal to improve your numbers. Keep track of how you’re doing and see where you are in six months. I bet you’ll begin to see and feel the difference. If you need help finding a primary care physician or you want information about local screening events, call 629-1234.
And let me hear from you. What are your companies doing to improve their employees’ health?