May is National High Blood Pressure Education Month. High blood pressure is clearly an epidemic as heart disease is the leading cause of death in the US. Still, you may think this is a pretty random topic for manufacturing managers. If so, here’s what you don’t know:
Manual labor increases the risk of high blood pressure.
It’s tempting to think that labor-intensive or manual material handling jobs help reduce blood pressure. After all, exercise is one of the most impactful ways to manage it. However, according to several studies, not only does manual labor not decrease the risk of high blood pressure, it significantly increases it.
This Time article by Alexandra Sifferlin details two studies on this and finds:
“Those reporting more labor-intensive occupations showed higher rates of heart events; for each one unit drop in the ranking of physical intensity, the participants showed a 20% decline in their chances of having a heart event.”
Sifferlin goes into the second study, stating that “After following the men for slightly more than three years on average, the researchers found that … men whose jobs were more physically demanding and who also exercised when they were off the clock showed a nearly 70% increased risk of heart problems… the men with the physically demanding jobs were more than four times likely as those with less physically-oriented occupations to develop heart disease…”
If you’re wondering why that is, Sifferlin cites the study author:
“‘…Physical activities done on the job usually include more static activity types which do not have a training effect on the cardiovascular system, but have an overloading effect on the system,’ says study author Dr. Els Clays. ‘If people are exposed to that for a long time, like multiple hours during the day, that can really have an adverse effect on their cardiovascular health.’”
This isn’t just true of people who engage in hard labor throughout the day:
“Jobs that require activities like heavy lifting, awkward postures and high physical exertion are known to increase blood pressure and heart rate.”
Most manual material handling jobs include awkward postures or heavy lifting.
Sadly, the Time article also says, “The researchers of the first study also suggest that the stress accompanying physically demanding jobs may counteract the positive effects of exercise.”
Hypertension is known as the “silent killer” for a reason. There typically aren’t any symptoms, which makes it hard to keep an eye out for. As a manager, your best strategy is to inform, encourage, and improve:
Inform your staff about hypertension and the risks associated with it. Let them know how important it is to take care of oneself in this industry by sharing resources with them, like for symptoms and risks.
You can encourage staff to be active with management and prevention. Whether that’s informing them, creating conversations around the topic, or making it easier for them to follow a healthier regimen. In addition, you can participate in things like World Hypertension Day (May 17) and have everyone check their blood pressure (more info here.)
Finally, you can help make their jobs less detrimental to their health with any number of ergonomic improvements. Here is a great resource with a variety of suggestions.
As packaging specialists, we know better than most what a physical strain the packaging process can be. This is particularly true with large and/or heavy objects. Please use extreme care and caution when completing your own large packaging jobs. If you decide to leave it to the experts, give us a call: 952.944.9124.