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Wellness programs can counteract effects of heart disease

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Wellness programs can play a pivotal role in guiding workers to better hearth health while lowering employers' costs, according to a study released Monday by health care management platform HealthMine Inc.

Some 27.6 million U.S. residents had heart disease in 2014, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

Cardiovascular disease resulted in more than $300 billion in health costs and lost productivity in 2011, according to the CDC Foundation, an independent nonprofit organization that works with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to build public health programs. By 2030, the foundation estimates cardiovascular disease direct medical costs will top $818 billion while lost productivity costs will top $275 billion.

But Dallas-based HealthMine, which surveyed 501 people at risk of or who already have heart disease, said workplace wellness and disease management programs can help improve worker health and lower plan sponsors' costs.

Fifty-one percent of those surveyed earlier this year for the HealthMine Cardiovascular Report said their condition reduces their productivity at work, and 46% said they have lost work days because of their heart condition. About one-third of workers reported losing three or more workdays per year because of the disease, and 16% lost more than six days.

Further driving health costs, 20% of respondents said they were hospitalized in the past year and one-quarter had to visit the emergency room or urgent care at least once as a result of their heart disease, which often has one or more comorbid conditions.

Only 38% of survey respondents were involved in a wellness program at work and 43% of those individuals said they found out about their heart condition or risk through the wellness program. A majority of wellness program participants also have access to a disease management program and participate in that program.

What's more, 79% of people enrolled in wellness programs said they help them manage their health costs, according to the survey.

“Increasing knowledge of key health metrics, engaging members in disease management, and incorporating mobile health tools into a larger personal clinical engagement strategy are essential components of a wellness program for those with heart disease or risk,” HealthMine said in the report. “By implementing these strategies, plan sponsors will meaningfully and measurably improve lives and lower costs, both for their members and for themselves.”