5 Health Issues in America Your Employees Can’t Afford to Ignore

Posted by Seraine Page on Thu, Apr, 09, 2020

USANow, more than ever, it’s time to focus on health issues in America and in your workplace.

We all know that COVID-19 is taking center stage at the moment.

But underlying health issues are a big part of the concern for those who contract the sometimes deadly virus. People with health concerns like heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes are more susceptible than ever to getting ill.

Preventable and/or treatable conditions can make it harder to fight off viruses — like Coronavirus. According to a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report, 71% of Americans hospitalized with Coronavirus had an underlying health condition.

Keep promoting your corporate wellness campaigns and health plans. Individuals everywhere are realizing the power of taking an active role in preventing disease.

This post will cover common underlying health conditions, the consequences of each, and the importance of prioritizing lifestyle changes. We have more time than ever to work on these issues.

Here’s a look at why staying on top of preventable diseases is a must for your employees now and in the future.

What is an Underlying Health Condition?

An underlying health condition is a health issue that may make it more difficult to fight disease or increases the chance of getting sick.

People of various ages can have serious underlying health issues that are generally chronic in nature.

A sampling of underlying health conditions include:

Based on available information, older adults and those with underlying health concerns may be at higher risk of getting COVID-19, also known as Coronavirus.

Health Issues in America: Why Some Employees Need to Closely Monitor Their Health 

Due to COVID-19 being a respiratory virus, individuals with chronic health conditions are at a higher risk of developing a severe lower respiratory infection. This means low oxygen levels and potentially pneumonia.

These are the individuals who are currently ending up as hospitalized patients. While it’s also true that young, healthy individuals are getting sick from Coronavirus, too, the immune-compromised need to be extra careful.  

Here’s a look at five health issues that are preventable, but could put individuals at a higher risk for COVID-19 and other illnesses:


As one of the top costly diseases and health issues in America, obesity is one health condition that can’t be ignored.

Being overweight may not only lead to a large number of health issues like high blood pressure and heart disease, it also can weaken your immune system. Right now, having a strong immune system is critical to maintaining health — for the young and old alike.

Factors that contribute to obesity include:

  • Physical inactivity
  • Genetics
  • Overeating
  • Medications
  • Social issues
  • Frequency of eating intervals
  • Diets high in simple carbs
  • Other health issues
Reasons to Tackle This Health Concern Now

Poor diets high in sugars and fat, low fiber, protein, and other nutrients can increase blood sugar and may cause oxidative damage to the body’s cells. This makes them less likely to fight off infection. Even if you exercise but are obese, you’re still at a higher risk of infections.

Ways to reduce obesity risk:

  • Maintain a regular exercise routine
  • Find a support group
  • Lifelong diet changes

Consider a telehealth appointment to get professional advice from a doctor on how to safely start an exercise routine — especially in the age of social distancing where many gyms should be closed. Check out apps for healthy eating and food trackers and use online resources to find healthy recipes.

High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is known as the “silent killer.” Often high blood pressure has no symptoms, which is why you should be screened regularly. Nearly two-thirds of people over 60 have high blood pressure. And one out of three Americans has high blood pressure.

Factors that contribute to high blood pressure:

  • Stress
  • Smoking
  • Older age
  • Genetics
  • Being overweight
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Too much salt in the diet
Reasons to Tackle This Health Concern Now

Preliminary studies are showing that people with high blood pressure have an increased risk of getting COVID-19. Most people with high blood pressure also have other health concerns, though.

But if blood pressure is under control without other risk factors, individuals probably are not at any greater danger, experts say. While pneumonia is the most common complication of Coronavirus, it can also damage the cardiovascular system.

Additionally, unmanaged high blood pressure can lead to heart disease, heart attack, heart failure, kidney disease, vision loss, stroke, and sexual dysfunction.

Ways to reduce high blood pressure risk:

  • Quit smoking
  • Lose weight
  • Limit alcohol intake
  • Reduce stress
  • Exercise daily
  • Manage blood pressure

Lifestyle changes can help, but all changes should be done while working with a doctor. You may need medication and should be monitored regularly to see how your body is responding to the medication.

Heart Disease

Heart disease encompasses a multitude of conditions that impact heart health. This includes coronary artery disease; heart rhythm problems (arrhythmias); and heart defects you're born with. More people die in the US from heart disease than any other condition — almost 650,000 in the U.S. per year, according to the CDC. 

Factors that contribute to heart disease:

  • Age
  • Family history
  • Diabetes
  • Stress
  • Physical inactivity
  • Uncontrolled blood pressure
  • High cholesterol levels
Reasons to Tackle This Health Concern Now

A third of the patients who died of Coronavirus in Italy had heart disease.

Any kind of cardiovascular condition can weaken the immune system, leaving a patient more susceptible to complications from viruses such as the flu or Coronavirus.

Adults with heart disease were among the most common individuals hospitalized during the 2018-19 flu season. Nearly half of the hospitalized adults had heart disease.

During the Coronavirus, the CDC recommends people with heart conditions stay home, wash hands often, and practice social distancing of 6-feet, clean and disinfect surfaces often, and avoid travel.

Ways to reduce heart disease risk:

  • Get flu shots (CDC recommendation)
  • Quit smoking
  • Control other health conditions
  • Exercise at least 30 minutes daily
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Reduce and manage stress
  • Practice good hygiene

Certain types of heart diseases and defects can't be prevented. But you can help prevent other types by making lifestyle changes.


There are several diabetes: Type 1, type 2, pre-diabetes, and gestational diabetes. Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S. and the number one cause of kidney failure, lower-limb amputations, and adult blindness. There isn’t a cure yet for diabetes, unfortunately. Losing weight and eating healthy food can help, along with exercise.

Factors that contribute to diabetes:

  • Genes
  • Viruses
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Overweight or obesity
  • Environmental factors
  • Pre-diabetes raises type 2 diabetes risk
Reasons to Tackle This Health Concern Now

When someone with diabetes develops a viral infection of any kind (including COVID-19), it can be harder to treat because the person's immune system is compromised. Viruses may thrive in environments with elevated blood glucose levels.

People with diabetes also have higher levels of inflammation in their bodies which can lead to pneumonia easier. A virus may also increase blood sugar causing additional complications.

Ways to reduce diabetes risk:

  • Eat well
  • Be active
  • Drink more water
  • Quit smoking
  • Exercise to strengthen lungs
  • Follow a low-carb diet
  • Maintain a healthy weight

You’ll also want to focus on self-management and maintain all health care appointments, as needed. According to the CDC, 88 million adults in the U.S. have pre-diabetes and more than 80% don’t know it, which is why screening and blood tests are so important.

Lung Disease

Millions of individuals suffer from lung disease. The biggest step to preventing and treating lung disease is to stop smoking — or never start — and avoiding second-hand smoke as well.

Factors that contribute to lung disease:

  • Smoking
  • Pollution
  • Exposure to second-hand smoke
Reasons to Tackle This Health Concern Now

When people get Coronavirus and need hospitalization, it goes after the respiratory system — a disaster for someone who already has trouble breathing.

People with lung disease have weaker immune systems and are more likely to develop serious complications from viruses that attack the lungs — like COVID-19 and the flu.

Pneumonia is a serious concern when people with lung problems contract viruses. Inflammation of the lung’s air sacs prevents the transfer of oxygen into the bloodstream and the removal of carbon dioxide, which can lead to organ failure and death.

Ways to reduce lung disease risk:

  • Don’t smoke
  • Avoid pollution
  • Watch allergen triggers
  • Avoid radon and asbestos exposure
  • Take extra precautions during flu season

Be aware of pollen counts and other nature-related lung irritation triggers and avoid them when possible. Clean air and surfaces — keeping your home clean and less dusty helps. Consider the installation of quality air filters or air cleaners. Avoid air fresheners and know that mold and pet dander are potential triggers.

Help Employees Understand These Health Issues in America

It’s prime time to educate employees on avoiding preventable diseases when possible. For most of the above conditions, eating healthy and exercising are two easy-to-control factors they can start today.

Education is the other piece of understanding the consequences of these health conditions.

For those with the above conditions, here are the CDC’s recommendations for staying safe during the pandemic:

  • Wash your hands often
  • Stay home, if possible
  • Stay 6 feet away from others outside the home
  • Keep away from people who are sick
  • Disinfect frequently-touched surfaces
  • Avoid all non-essential air, cruise travel
  • Call your healthcare professional if you’re sick

Right now, one of the top health issues in America is COVID-19.

While we all have the potential of catching COVID-19 if we don’t follow the recommended guidelines, maintaining our health in other ways is possible. If you or your employees know they are at-risk for any of the health issues above  — like a family history — start working on better health now and stay at home.

Healthy habits are compounding. Even taking baby steps helps. Ensuring health is in tip-top shape is important for now and the future.

Share this list of 10 Health Screenings to Check Off Your To-Do List for employees to plan ahead for the upcoming months!

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Topics: In the News, Wellness at Work


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