High blood pressure — A hidden danger for your truck drivers

Doctor with patientIf you’re running a logistics business or division, you know how important it is to have reliable and healthy truck drivers. Although most health conditions are easy to diagnose and treat, there’s one in particular that’s tricky to spot — High blood pressure. That’s because high blood pressure (also known as hypertension) often doesn’t show any symptoms, and that’s a real problem.

Left untreated, high blood pressure can lead to significant problems for your truck drivers including:

  • An enlarged heart, a big risk for heart failure.
  • Aneurysms in blood vessels, which can be fatal.
  • Kidney failure.
  • Vision problems and blindness.

It’s estimated that over 65 million Americans (around a third of the adult population) have high blood pressure, and one in three of those people aren’t aware they’re affected.

Why high blood pressure is a real issue for truck drivers
Truck drivers have a greater risk of high blood pressure than others, mainly due to the nature of their work. Some of the causes of high blood pressure include:

  • A poor diet with too much salt — Eating healthily on the road is a real challenge, and many truck drivers will opt for fast food. Unfortunately, the high proportion of salt and lack of other nutrients is a risk factor.
  • Too much alcohol – We hope you already have drug and alcohol testing policy and procedures in place to ensure no drinking on the job, but you can’t control what happens after hours.
  • Lack of exercise — Spending almost all of their working life behind the wheel of a truck leaves little time for exercise. Being overweight or obese significantly increases the chances of high blood pressure.
  • Stress and anxiety — Dealing with other road users can create significant stress for long-haul truck drivers.

Dealing with high blood pressure issues for your drivers
As with most health issues, prevention is much better than cure. That’s why taking a few simple steps could reduce the risk of high blood pressure in your drivers, help them stay healthy, and reduce downtime due to sickness. Some of the steps you can take include:

  • Education and training — Let your truck drivers know about the risks of high blood pressure including why and how they could be impacted. Encourage them to get tested and provide clear, simple ways for them to get training on how to avoid the issue.
  • Policy changes — Introduce policies that encourage healthier behavior. Give truck drivers a 30 or 45 minute break each day that they can use to exercise. Incentivize them to eat more healthily by providing discounts for particular types of restaurants or meals.
  • Support and resources — Get some help in place. Arrange for a nurse to come on site to provide blood pressure testing and personalized advice on what your truck drivers can do. Provide maps of where to find restaurants with healthy eating options on the popular trucking routes. Introduce a formal wellness program into your workplace.
  • Health insurance and medication — Even with all these preventative measures, you will still have some drivers who develop high blood pressure problems. In those cases, you’ll want to ensure they have the right health insurance and get access to the doctors and medications they need to control their medical conditions.

If you want to keep your truck drivers healthy and happy, you can start right now. Just using one or two of these suggestions could significantly reduce the frequency and impact of high blood pressure problems. That means healthier employees, less time off sick, and a more efficient trucking operation.

Jonathan Belek
Risk Management Consultant
jbelek@srfm.com

blood pressure trucking

Building Healthy Habits — Beat Holiday Indulgences and Feel Fantastic

healthy habitsEating and drinking is one of the great pleasures in life, and the holiday season is the perfect time to indulge. Celebrating with family and friends makes it easy to just have one more serving, an extra slice of cake, or another glass of wine. Of course, that can mean putting on a few more pounds than you’d like, so what’s the best way to shift that holiday weight?

Rather than starting up a new diet or exercise regime, it’s all about making small, positive lifestyle changes and building good habits — Here’s how to do exactly that.

Understand what you want to change most to get healthier

You can only change your lifestyle if you’ve got a good reason. Think about what your goals are when it comes to getting healthier — Is it losing weight, lifting a certain amount, walking up a steep hill without being out of breath, or something else?

Your goals should be short-term and easy to reach — If you want to lose weight it’s much better to aim at losing a couple of pounds a month than 25 pounds this year. So, choose one goal, write it down, and commit to it.

Focus on making one small change to your health at a time

If you try to do too much too soon, you’ll lose focus, get distracted, and it won’t last. That’s why getting healthier is all about making small, incremental changes that together add up to you feeling fantastic. Look at your goal and think about the one small thing you could do today to get towards it. For example:

  • Reduce your mid-afternoon snacks.
  • Drink one less beer during an evening out with friends.
  • Walk for 15 minutes each day.
  • Have one “meat free” day a week.

Then, make the change and stick to it.

Take pleasure in what you’re doing to create a healthier lifestyle

It’s important to feel positively about the changes you’re making, rather than seeing them as denying yourself. Be “in the moment” and conscious of how and why you’re making your choices. If you’re taking a walk each day, spend the time really enjoying and noticing your surroundings. If you’re reducing how much you drink, replace the beer or wine with a delicious fruit smoothie. Think about ways to positively reinforce what you’re doing.

When it comes to getting healthier, don’t do too much, too quickly

As you make changes, wait for them to become a habit and “stick” before you move onto something else. Ideally, you want your positive lifestyle changes to become effortless and part of who you are. That way, it will never feel like a chore.

Really feel the benefits of a healthier lifestyle

Positive reinforcement is vitally important. That’s why you want to notice the changes you’re making and the benefits they’re having. Appreciate the fact you don’t run out of breath when you’re hiking up a hill, or that you look great in the new clothes you’ve been able to buy. Reward yourself for creating healthy changes in your life.

It’s amazing how much you can do for your health if you set realistic goals, turn small changes into habits, feel the benefits, and take pleasure in what you’re doing. Of course, you can still have “cheat days” and overindulge from time to time. Now you’ll have the confidence you’re completely in charge of your lifestyle and the healthy choices you’ve made.

Heather Sinclair
Risk Management Consultant
hsinclair@srfm.com

Healthly Habits

Live and Drive Safely: 6 Essential Ways Truckers Can Stay Healthy

Live and drive safely: 6 essential ways truckers can stay healthyTrucking doesn’t lend itself to healthy lifestyles. You’re cramped into a small space, miles from home and familiar places. It’s easy to chow down a Twinkie because it’s quick or sip a triple-sugar coffee to stay awake.

However, your health is the most important thing you have. Here are a few ways you can stay healthy on the road.

1. Don’t diet; focus on being healthier

Instead of temporarily dieting, focus on eating healthier all the time. Plan to eat reasonable, healthy meals for your height and weight (here’s a good calculator).

Don’t expect rapid weight loss. Somedays, fast food is your only options. When that happens, adjust your daily meal plan to compensate.

Avoid processed foods. Even though these are the most readily available at rest stops and gas stations, they’re just empty calories with little nutrition. Snack on fresh fruits and vegetables. 

2. Quit smoking right away

Smoking is a common way to pass the time when you’re driving. It’s easy to lose track of how many packs you’ve gone through each day.

The National Institute of Health reports that 54% of truckers are smokers, considerably higher than the general population. To protect your lungs, heart, skin, and stomach, stop smoking immediately. It’s disastrous to your health.

3. Make time to exercise each day

Within the confines of your truck, it’s impossible to exercise safely. The only way to burn some calories is to schedule work out time into your day.

Depending on your route and time-table, this may be tough, but you don’t need to do much. Walking for just 45 minutes can burn more than 400 calories. If you’re eating sensibly, that’s akin to cutting out an entire meal.

4. Wash your hands frequently

When you spend long stretches of time eating poorly, sleeping irregularly, and sitting down, your immune system suffers. Everyday bacteria and viruses you would ordinarily repel can become dangerous.

The best way to prevent foreign substances from getting inside your body is to wash your hands. This is especially important for truckers and drivers who spend a lot of time using public facilities.

5. Get proper rest

This is a tall request for some truckers who are pressured by tight deadlines. You may want to get ahead of traffic or take advantage of good weather. If you get a bonus for early deliveries, you’ve definitely pushed your limits. Even if you want to respect your sleep needs, your job and industry work against you.

Chronic sleep deprivation significantly affects your health and driving performance (especially focus). Falling asleep at the wheel behind a heavy truck can be catastrophic. Make sure you’re sleeping as much as you can during your mandatory 10-hour break, even if it hurts your wallet.

6. Reduce your stress

Between traffic and tight deadlines, truckers attract stress. Stress isn’t frustration; it can have physical effects on your body. Aside from changing professions, reduce stress with relaxing activities, like listening to music, mediation, and exercise.

Employers would be wise to set up a properly designed wellness program to ensure their drivers are living healthy lives that keep them safe and productive.

Marty Shea

Director of Sales

mshea@srfm.com

Live and drive safely: 6 essential ways truckers can stay healthy

Creating a Healthy Workplace Challenge

Blueberries

Still trying to figure out how to kick off an employee wellness program? The latest trend is to come up with fun and highly motivating group wellness challenges that are not only a great way to increase morale, but that actually promote lifestyle and behavioral change through active participation in wellness goals or competitions over a multi-week period. A challenge can be a great way to kick off a new wellness campaign or create momentum towards long term initiatives.

These challenges can focus on exercise, healthy eating, weight management, increasing steps or all of the above combined into a lifestyle challenge. “There are many wellness challenges on the market but creating one that fits your employees’ needs and interests would bode well for increased engagement” says Wendy Pernerewski, CEO & Founder of Employee Health Management. “We take a close look at what the existing culture is, ask what the employees want and review existing health data to create a program that best suits the environment and to increase employee buy in”.

One way to get employees to participate at this time of year is to create a challenge around healthier eating.  Winter pounds may have accumulated and thoughts of summer are on the horizon. A 30-Day Nutrition Challenge would fit perfectly.  You could simply set up a points based system where individuals are given specific goals to achieve throughout the month.

Here are a few to include:

    • Eat 5 servings per day of fruits and/or vegetables –get one point for each serving of fruit or vegetables.
    • Eat healthy snacks –get one point each day that you only eat fruits and/or vegetables for snacks.
    • Avoid eating junk food –get one point each day that you do not eat any junk food.
    • Eat breakfast –get one point each day that you eat a healthy breakfast.
    • Reduce calorie intake by 100 calories each day –eliminate 100 calories (use a mobile phone app like My Fitness Pal for calorie counting) from your diet each day by eating smaller portions or avoiding certain foods or beverages that you normally consume.  Get one point for each day that you succeed.
    • Keep track of your calorie count –use a calorie counter to count the calories in everything you eat and drink.  Try it for a week at a time.  Receive one point for each day that you successfully account for everything you eat and drink.
    • Prepare healthy meals –earn one point for each healthy meal that you eat.
    • Share healthy meal recipes that can contribute to a company Healthy Cook Book –receive one point for every healthy recipe contributed.

Before jumping in, designate a Challenge Leader or hire a wellness expert to help design challenge parameters and rules that need to include specific start and end dates, goals and measurements, as well as prizes to offer.  Review your challenge with human resources and legal counsel.  There are many new wellness rules that need to be followed or there may be legal implications.  Communicate the challenge to employees. Have a group meeting to explain the contest and solicit feedback and questions. Provide ongoing promotion of the challenge to keep employees motivated.

Lori Porter

lporter@srfm.com

Sinclair Risk & Financial Management

 

Lori Porter

Employee Wellness: A Prescription for Fruits and Veggies

Employee Wellness A Prescription for Fruits and Veggies 241x300 Employee Wellness: A Prescription for Fruits and VeggiesEmployee Wellness: A Prescription for Fruits and Veggies

With bad cholesterol, depression, high blood pressure, and obesity all steadily threatening America’s well-being, some healthcare professionals are trying a new, simpler prescription- eat your fruits and vegetables by starting Employee Wellness Programs.

In a partnership between health care providers and farmers market partners, the Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program (FVRx) provides daily $1 subsidies to buy produce at local farmers markets. Each family member gets the $1 prescription, so for example a family of five would get $35 per week to spend on fresh fruits and vegetables.

A primary care physician and nutritionist meet with each participant monthly to discuss and reinforce the importance of healthy eating. The patient’s progress is tracked over the period of the description, monitoring their weight, blood pressure, and Body Mass Index at each visit.

The program is designed specifically to assist overweight children and pregnant women who are at risk of developing preventable diseases. In the 2011 pilot program, FVRx participants reported a 38.1% decreased BMI over a four month intervention period. The program yielded economic benefits for local farmers as well- participating farmers markets saw an average increase in revenue of 8,129, as well as an influx of new and repeat customers.

The FVRx is one component of an increasing trend in health care that take a preventative approach to healthcare. The cost of medical care is rising, and preventable diseases such as type 2 diabetes and obesity rates only place additional burdens on medical costs. Initiatives such as the FVRx, wellness programs and education target lifestyle changes, including improved diet and exercise, that improve an individual’s well-being and can stave off preventable diseases.

The growing importance of employee wellness programs in the workplace reflects this same dynamic. Employers are helping employees work harder at staying healthy and manage chronic diseases more effectively, so that they and the company benefit from lower health costs and reduced absences. Sinclair Risk & Financial Management is at the forefront of this approach, providing employers with a proprietary Wellness Program designed to promote healthy employee lifestyle choices along with a strategy to create and sustain these behaviors. Contact us today for more information about our employee wellness programs.