On the morning of March 9, 2013, I dropped dead 50 yards from my house. I was out for a five-mile run, as I’d done regularly several times a week. But this week was different. At the 4.75-mile mark, my heart stopped. There were none of the typical warning signs – I didn’t have any serious shortness of breath or chest pain. I just collapsed, right in the street.

Fortunately, a driver happened upon me. She jumped out of her car, realized I had no pulse, and started screaming for help. Even more fortunately, a cardiac nurse who resided on that street heard the calls for help, ran out to me, and administered CPR for 15 minutes until paramedics arrived.

When I got to the hospital, I was put into an induced coma for five days because the doctors had no information indicating how long I had gone without oxygen and they were concerned about possible permanent brain damage. A month later I was back in the hospital to have a scheduled quadruple bypass surgery.

The fact that I survived is nothing short of a miracle. But it was a miracle with a $490,000 price tag.

The thing I regret the most? It all could have been avoided. I assumed that because I lived a healthy lifestyle and was physically fit and active, I didn’t need to be concerned about my heart. But I quickly learned that appearances can be extremely deceiving. Unless you look under the hood once in awhile, you have no idea what’s going on with your engine. It was an expensive lesson.

And that brings me to the topic of workplace wellness …

Since February is all about affairs of the heart, with Valentine’s Day and the annual American Heart Month campaign, it’s the perfect time to focus on wellness – what it means, why it’s important, and why workplace engagement is essential. Let’s start with two insightful statistics:

  • The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that chronic diseases account for 86 percent of all healthcare spending in the U.S., and a significant share of those chronic diseases can be directly linked to unhealthy lifestyle choices such as smoking, poor eating habits, alcohol abuse, and lack of physical activity.
  • Obesity alone affects 78.6 million, or more than one-third of U.S. adults, with obesity-related absenteeism costing U.S. companies as much as $6.4 billion every year.

These are staggering numbers, and employers are in a unique position to help change them. Since employees spend so much time at their workplaces, it’s the ideal setting to address health and wellness. And by investing in your employees’ health, you’re protecting your organization. An effective workplace wellness program:

  • Provides greater health awareness
  • Encourages employees to make smart health care decisions
  • Improves productivity and morale
  • Helps control healthcare costs
  • Reduces turnover, absenteeism, and workers compensation claims
  • Adds value to employee benefits packages

We all share responsibility for healthcare cost control.

While the Affordable Care Act has made healthcare more accessible for millions, it hasn’t made healthcare more affordable. It’s up to each of us to help control healthcare costs by being proactive. If I had been more proactive and had my arteries checked before my heart attack, I could have avoided nearly half of the $490,000 price tag. I still may have needed surgery, but I wouldn’t have needed emergency treatment and an extended hospital stay.

Don’t let your team make a $490,000 wellness mistake. Let BeaconPath help you build an effective wellness program that will help you take control of your healthcare costs – and the health of your business. Learn more.

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