If you are looking for a topic for a toolbox talk, consider adding heart disease to the list.

For the first time in decades, Americans are dying at a faster rate and dying younger, and heart disease is at the top of the list of what is claiming the most lives. According to a new report of the top 10 killers from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), life expectancy for people born in 2015 has fallen by one-tenth of a year from 78.9 to 78.8, while the overall death rate has climbed by 1.2 percent.

Heart disease isn’t the only condition taking victims sooner (cancer, chronic lung disease and unintentional injuries including drug overdoses follow on the list of major killers), but it is the leader. More than 600,000 people in the United States die of heart disease every year. That’s one in every four deaths. Coronary heart disease, the most common type of heart disease and the source of most heart attacks, kills nearly 380,000 people annually.

Employees are a company’s most valuable asset. With this in mind, employers should be prepared not only with the emergency procedures than can save a life when a heart attack happens, but also through prevention. Witnessing a heart attack can be as traumatic for other employees as a serious injury occurring on the job and just as disruptive to the workplace. Workplace factors that can increase risk for heart disease and stroke include noise, secondhand smoke, job stress and shift work. Click here for a list of heart attack symptoms.

Toolbox talks, which usually focus on injury and illness prevention on the worksite, are also opportunities to discuss lifestyle behaviors that can reduce risk for heart disease, heart attacks and other serious conditions. Many of these conditions are preventable and all of them can affect worker safety and productivity. This is why the LHSFNA takes a comprehensive approach to worker safety and health through both its Occupational Safety and Health and Health Promotion Divisions.

Preventing chronic injuries and illnesses helps workers enjoy longer, more productive careers – a benefit to them and signatory contractors. The LHSFNA has many publications that can help reduce risk factors for heart disease, including those on smoking, stress, nutrition and noise. For more information or to order, call 202-628-5465 or visit our online Publications Catalogue.

Heart Attacks and Suicide

Up to a third of heart attack survivors and people with unstable angina (chest pain) develop some degree of depression.

Untreated depression can increase risk for suicide, another top killer on the NCHS list. More than 41,000 Americans die by suicide every year and more than nine million think about it.

Construction workers are at a higher risk for suicide than many other professions.

If you have survived a heart attack and are struggling with depression, let your health care provider know. Mental health resources may also be available through your union-provided benefits.

See if you have access to a Member Assistance Program (MAP) and/or additional mental health resources through your health and welfare fund.

You can also call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or visit https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

[Janet Lubman Rathner]