Recently released figures from the British Heart Foundation show that an estimated four million people under the age of 65 and 1.3 million people under the age of 45 are living with untreated high blood pressure.
These figures mean that a significant number of working people could be affected by high blood pressure, which can increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes. It is also associated with an increased risk of vascular dementia – a common type of dementia caused by reduced blood flow to the brain. Employees who have undiagnosed high blood pressure are, therefore, at greater risk of having to take significant amounts of time off sick from work, impacting upon both their own lives and the business as a whole.
Diagnosing the condition early has advantages for the company and huge benefits to the individual.
High blood pressure rarely has noticeable symptoms at first, so individuals may be completely unaware they have the condition. Indeed, high blood pressure is often referred to as ‘the silent killer’, with many people not knowing they are at risk until they have a heart attack or stroke. Once detected, however, the condition can usually be easily treated with simple lifestyle changes and medication.
Small things, big impact
Small things can have a big impact and high blood pressure, which is often symptomless, can have a big impact on someone’s health. A simple eye test can play a role in detecting high blood pressure.
During an eye test, an optician will check, not just how well someone can see, but the overall health of the eye including an examination of the retina and the small blood vessels at the back of the eye. If these blood vessels are narrowed or leaking, this may be a symptom of high blood pressure. The optician can then refer the individual to their GP, who can investigate further.
The fact an optician can check the health of your eye is one of the advantages of having a regular eye test. It means an employee is not being asked to make a separate or extra appointment that they feel they might not need.
Each employee who is classed as a screen user should be offered regular eye tests under the Health and Safety Display Screen Equipment (DSE) regulations. Anyone who drives during the course of their work should be offered regular eye care to ensure they are fit for the task. Those who need prescription safety glasses are also likely to be offered regular eye tests through work, to ensure their prescription is up to date. There is, therefore, a large percentage of employees likely to already be eligible for company-funded eye care. It is just a matter of communicating the policy and encouraging take-up.
The role of the employer
Offering workplace eye care can be a simple and cost-effective process. Online management systems allow employers to purchase, distribute and manage eye care electronically, with easy-to-use eVouchers. The employee simply presents the eVoucher at their most convenient optical store, either as a print-out or on their smartphone, and the optician will provide the appropriate care.
By simply offering eye care, employers are in a position to be able to make a real difference to the health of their employees. It is a win-win situation, with employees benefiting from improved health and employers benefiting from the associated improved productivity, morale and loyalty of employees. Providing eye care could save money and, literally, save lives.
Eyes and eyesight testing for DSE at work avilable here
Jim Lythgow is director of strategic alliances Specsavers Corporate Eyecare
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