Jim Near, Jerald Fishman, Ranjan Das, James Cantalupo.
What do these names have in common? Well, they were once CEOs of high-profile companies all around the world. Further still, they all passed away too early due to a disease that is becoming far too common among CEOs – heart disease.
CEOs work hard to achieve the levels of success that they do, and they get to enjoy all the perks that come along with the prestige. However, that comes with a great cost to their health.
Because of this, a lot of research has been conducted surrounding the topic of heart disease and its relation to executive stress (Borgschulte et al., 2021). It’s no coincidence that executives in stressful jobs are passing away from the same illness.
There are numerous risk factors that CEOs should pay attention to, some of which are within their control:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Level of activity
According to the CEO Health and Wellness Survey (Kennedy, 2012), of the CEOs and executives that participated in the survey:
- 58.97% were at high cardiac risk
- 35.90% had high blood pressure
- 12.82% were at risk of developing diabetes
- 23.08% had high blood cholesterol levels
The executive perks like the latest cars, personal chauffeurs and 5-star hotels contribute towards a sedentary lifestyle and as a result, the survey found that 82.05% of Chief Executives were overweight and 69.23% of CEOs were in very poor fitness positions.
The CEOs mentioned earlier were in high-stress positions and were not aware of what can be done to help themselves recognise the risks, and what can be done to prevent them. As a result, they were not able to receive the help they needed when it mattered most.
On the other hand, there are also stories of survival. John Warner MD (Khan, 2018) is the chief of cardiology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Centre. Back in 2017, he was lecturing to thousands of cardiologists about his concern that males in his family rarely reach the age of 60 due to heart disease.
The next morning, he suffered a heart attack in his hotel. Luck and knowledge were on his side and with the help of fast response from family and staff, he received CPR and was able to have a stent inserted at the local hospital.
John Warmer is now back at work and sharing his story of how he survived and what can help other people in high-stress positions survive too.
CEOs Fighting Against Stress-Related Illnesses
In the UK alone, it is estimated that the health expenditure between 2019 and 2020 increased by around 20% to £269billion (in large part driven by the global COVID-19 pandemic) (ONS, 2021). This indicates that more individuals, as well as the government, are recognising the importance of their health!
That is why it is up to everyone to educate and raise awareness for various health issues. In the corporate world more than one-third of all developed cancers and stress-related heart diseases are due to lifestyle factors such as lack of physical activity, smoking and poor diets – all of which can be easily modified (Pyenson, 2007).
We spend around nine hours of our day sitting down at work and between seven or eight asleep. It does not seem like a huge deal however statistics suggest that in 2016 over 69,000 deaths could have been avoided if sedentary behaviour (defined as sitting for more than six hours per day (Simon, 2018)) was eliminated BMJ, 2019).
Our bodies are designed to move, so even those who are well protected are still at risk.
Luckily, movements such as CEOs Against Cancer (American Cancer society, 2021) ensures that everyone is encouraged to check their health, sit up straighter and move around more. This year in April the campaign had set out to encourage all staff to track their steps and monitor their activity levels.
The Corporate Health and Wellness Association (CHWA, 2021) also educates employers and employees about how to reduce negative behaviour and improve lifestyle choices to help with health, productivity, and well-being.
By connecting thousands of B2B professionals across the globe, CWHA can curate the most comprehensive information and data available. This way everyone has access to information that will help improve the health of many people.
Prevention of Stress-Related Heart Disease
Even without organisations, there are many things that you can do to prevent the effects of executive stress in the workplace.
First and foremost, being able to exercise will improve your health regardless of your occupation. Chris Allen from the BHF suggests that “we should all aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity each week” to reduce the risk of developing various diseases (BHF Press Office, 2013).
Getting your body moving will ensure that your muscles, joints, and cardiovascular system are working well, allow you to stretch and improve your posture and balance.
For unseen health problems such as the flu, you should try to keep good hygiene. Wash your hands, clean surfaces around you. If you happen to be sick, wear a mask to protect other people around you.
Finally, some top tips to reduce stress at work you can do the following:
- Take short breaks at work
- Use your holidays
- Ask for help
- Set work-home boundaries
- Accept that sometimes things are out of your control
Simple lifestyle changes have been shown to prevent between 80% and 90% of heart attacks and even established heart diseases can be alleviated through changes in diet and other non-invasive methods.
Coming back to the risk of holding a high-profile position at work, mention should be given to John Warner MD. After surviving his heart attack John has returned to work and has been sharing his experience (American Heart Association News, 2017). With all the technological advances that have developed in recent years, it is now possible to identify risks that may lead to heart disease so early that it will be treated before a heart attack is even on the table.
He has been advocating for preventive screenings and health assessments to prevent any risk for heart disease.
As much as trying to reduce things that may cause illnesses is beneficial, there is only one thing that will ensure that you are covering everything related to your health. Being able to assess your health regularly is invaluable.
A study concluded that “some of the biggest successes and most effective weapons in the war on cancer – early detection and prevention – are not being used as effectively as they could be“. The same goes for stress-related heart disease and any other preventable illness.
Preventive Health Assessments in London
It seems that preventive health screenings are the way forward for anyone who wants peace of mind regarding their health from CEOs and Executives to sedentary employees all around the world.
Here at Echelon Health, we aim to protect your most valuable asset. Having worked with some of the country’s most prominent CEOs and Executives to help improve their health, we know that there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach when it comes to everyone and their unique circumstances. Read our testimonials to see why we are the best at what we do.
As a result, we offer a wide range of options for different scans and packages. This includes our Healthy Heart package which is completed in under an hour and gives unparalleled insight into your heart arteries and any risk of coronary heart disease. In our Healthy Heart assessment, we include blood tests, an ECG, CT Heart and CT Coronary Angiogram.
If you are interested in a fully comprehensive head-to-toe check, we have the Platinum Assessment which is one of the most comprehensive in the world. It detects up to 94% of the causes of premature deaths and utilises the most advanced imaging technologies including MRI, CT scan and Ultrasound which leaves no stone unturned and finds even the smallest abnormalities. Both packages and more are available to our corporate and individual clients.
For more information on our services, you can contact us or download our brochure.
Article reviewed by Paul Jenkins MA MD FRCP.
Khan, J. MD (2018) What we can learn from the tragic deaths of CEOs. KevinMD. Available at: https://www.kevinmd.com/blog/2018/10/what-we-can-learn-from-the-tragic-deaths-of-ceos.html (Accessed 19/10/21).
American Heart Association News (2017). AHA president’s heart stopped for several minutes. He’s now back at work, ready to share his story. Available at: https://www.heart.org/en/news/2018/05/01/aha-presidents-heart-stopped-for-several-minutes-hes-now-back-at-work-ready-to-share-his-story (Accessed 19/10/21).
Pyenson, B. (2007) “Cost of Cancer to Employers.” Milliman, American Cancer Society, C-Change.
Simon, S. (2018) Sitting Time Linked to Higher Risk of Death from All Causes. American Cancer Society. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/latest-news/sitting-time-linked-to-higher-risk-of-death-from-all-causes.html (Accessed 19/10/2021).
American Cancer Society (2021). CEOs Against Cancer. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/our-partners/ceos-against-cancer.html (Accessed 19/10/21).
ONS (2021) Healthcare expenditure, UK Health Accounts provisional estimates: 2020. Available at: https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/healthcaresystem/bulletins/healthcareexpenditureukhealthaccountsprovisionalestimates/2020 (Accessed 19/10/21).
BMJ (2019) Spending too much time sitting down linked to around 50,000 deaths per year in the UK. EurekAlert! Available at: https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/842277 (Accessed 19/10/21).
BHF Press Office (2013) Housework isn’t enough to keep you healthy. British Heart Foundation. Available at: https://www.bhf.org.uk/what-we-do/news-from-the-bhf/news-archive/2013/october/how-healthy-is-housework (Accessed 19/10/2021).
CHWA (2021). Corporate Health & Wellness Association. Available at: https://www.globalhealthcareresources.com/corporate-health-wellness-association (Accessed 19/10/2021).
Borgschulte, M., Guenzel, M., Liu, C., & Malmendier, U. (2021). CEO Stress, Aging, and Death (No. w28550). National Bureau of Economic Research. Available at: https://www.nber.org/system/files/working_papers/w28550/w28550.pdf (Accessed 19/10/21).
Kennedy, A. (2012) The CEO Health & Wellness Survey. Arabian Wellness & Lifestyle Management. Available at: http://www.arabianwellness.com/index.php?page=ceo-health-wellness-survey (Accessed 19/10/21).