PROMOTING HEALTHY HEARTS
In 1987, the American Heart Association (AHA) reports, nearly one million Americans died of heart and blood pressure diseases. One in four suffer from cardiovascular disease, and almost one in two die of it.
As grim as these statistics are, they represent an approximate 25 percent decline in heart-related deaths over the past decade, according to AHA.
In 1986, the cost of heart and blood vessel disease was estimated at $78.6 billion, with a substantial portion of that tab picked up by American employers, primarily in the form of health and life insurance premiums, disability insurance, and workers compensation claims.
What can employers do to cut those costs and protect the lives and welfare of their workers? They can operate a health promotion, or wellness, program with a prevent-heart-disease component. One such company taking that initiative is Tenneco Inc., a Houston-based producer of crude oil, natural gas, petroleum, and petrochemicals. The program has been in place since 1980. It's under the direction of Edward J. Bernacki, M.D., vice president - health, environmental medicine, and safety.
Enrollment in the purely voluntary program begins with a medical history and physical examination. Risk factors, including smoking, hypertension, high blood cholesterol levels, family medical history, and age are noted at this stage. At Houston headquarters, where some 4,000 are employed, approximately 70 percent of the workforce participates.
According to Dr. Bernacki, the glue that holds the program together is physical fitness. "Once you get them involved in …