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claiming, approximately one million lives annually. • Every 33 seconds someone in the United States dies from cardiovascular disease. That is roughly the equivalent of a September 11-like tragedy repeating itself every 24 hours, 365 days a year. • About one of every six healthcare dollars in the United


States is spent on treating cardiovascular disease. Annual U.S. cardiovascular disease costs exceed $192.1 billion in direct medical expenses and $312.6 billion when indirect expenses are included.

How does Arkansas stack up? Did you know ...

• Arkansas ranks 48th out of 50 states for overall health. Only Louisiana and Mississippi have lower rankings. • Arkansas ranks fifth in the nation for deaths due to coronary

heart disease. • Arkansas ranks first in the nation for stroke mortality, followed by Alabama and Mississippi. • 66 percent of Arkansans are overweight or obese. [Body Mass

Index (BMI) of 25-30 = overweight; BMI of 30+ = obese.] • 50 percent have high blood pressure and 25 percent of those

do not even know it; only 33 percent of those with high blood pressure have it under control.

Why am I quoting health statistics, especially those related

to heart health? February is American Heart Month. President Lyndon B. Johnson, a heart attack survivor, correctly wrote in Proclamation 3566 of 1964, which declared February American Heart Month, of the “staggering physical and economic loss to the nation” due to cardiovascular diseases. Research, education and funding have brought a marked decrease in cardiovascular related diseases since the 1960s. However, even with all the advances, cardiovascular diseases continue to claim more lives than all forms of cancer combined. Furthermore, contrary to long-held opinions, heart disease is not just for men. Every year since 1984, more women than men have died of heart disease and stroke. The sad fact for Arkansans is that we rank ahead of the national average in most every area related to heart health. This is not an instance when we want to be at the top of the list. Many of the risk factors for heart disease are things we have some

control over. We cannot control our risk due to age, gender or heredity. But we can take the necessary steps to control high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking/tobacco use, diabetes, weight, physical inactivity and inadequate intake of fruits and vegetables. What does all this mean for counties, their elected officials

and employees? How does all this affect the bottom line? Putting the human aspect aside, let’s look at the dollars and cents of it. Cardiovascular-related diseases cost the counties money in insurance costs, time lost and productivity. As stated above, about one of every six healthcare dollars in the United States is spent on treating cardiovascular disease. It bears repeating that annually in the United States, cardiovascular disease costs exceed $192.1 billion in direct medical expenses and $312.6 billion when indirect expenses are included. According to the


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id you know ... • Heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death

for both men and women in the United States,

Savings times 2

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, reducing the average BMI in Arkansas by 5 percent could lead to a healthcare savings of more than $2 billion in 10 years and $6 billion in 20 years. I don’t care who you are, that is a lot of money. (Personal disclaimer: BMI, in my opinion, is not the best health measurement related to weight. However, it is the preferred measurement for most health insurance companies.) Why should your county get involved to reverse the trends of cardiovascular-related diseases? The little money counties have must be used wisely. According to the American Heart Association the return on investment looks pretty good:

Becky Comet AAC Member Benefits Manager

save $3.27 in medical costs and $2.73 in absenteeism costs. • Some interventions have shown to help improve nutrition

and activity habits in just one year and had a return of $1.17 for every $1 spent. • Participants in community-based programs who focused on improving nutrition and increasing physical activity had a 58 percent reduction in incidence of type 2 diabetes (a heart disease risk factor) compared with drug therapy, which had a 31 percent reduction.

What can you do in your county to benefit your people as well

as your county’s bottom line? Pick one or two of the risk factors mentioned above that most affects the people in your offices. Focus your efforts on those factors. In Arkansas, like many other states, heart diseases are common because many people in our state struggle with living a healthy lifestyle. The main lifestyle problems are tobacco use, lack of physical activity and a poor diet lacking in fruits and vegetables. (An interesting side note is that February’s American Heart Month is followed by March’s National Nutrition Month.) Get creative. Have a health fair to educate people. Start a walking group. Have a stand-and-stretch minute every hour. Have a monthly “healthy” potluck with a prize for the best dish. A health professional at your local hospital probably would volunteer to do health screenings or to share some tips for creating a healthy lifestyle. Is there a room in your building that is not being used? Turn it into a fitness room. You probably know a few people who have unused fitness equipment in their homes. They might be willing to donate it to your cause. There are a number of things that can be done that cost very little or nothing at all. We Arkansans are resourceful and creative folks. If we put our heads together, we can come up with some fabulous ways to help each other and help ourselves. Feel free to call me anytime. I have a little experience in changing some old habits to create a healthy lifestyle. I’ll be glad to come visit and help your county turn over a new leaf ... for the health of it.

COUNTY LINES, WINTER 2015 Wallet & waistline

• For every $1 spent in wellness programs, companies could

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