Some of the biggest annual price tags for employers include stroke and coronary artery disease, and many employees may be unaware they are at risk.

New research published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine and released by Health Advocate shows that more than two-thirds of employees (68%) whose hypertension was discovered during workplace health screenings didn’t previously know they had the condition.

The study analyzed more than 31,000 members of self-insured employer group plans. In addition to the high percentage who had undiagnosed hypertension, the study said prescriptions for hypertension medications spiked following the screenings, indicating that plan members were quick to respond to the bad news.

Also see:3 ways hypertension affects your bottom line and what to do about it.

“It’s a reminder that we’ve known for a long time that the most cost effective screenings you can do is for blood pressure,” says LuAnn Heinen, vice president, workforce well-being, productivity, and human capital at the National Business Group on Health. “They’re easy to do and can be done by onsite clinics and kiosks, or it can be part of a broader biometric screening.”

The study also looked at other factors and characteristics that may increase the risk of an employee having undiagnosed hypertension. Specifically, the study noted that obese patients have a 155% greater risk of having undiagnosed hypertension.

“Hypertension becomes particularly concerning, especially when combined with sedentariness, smoking, diabetes, obesity and a poor diet,” Heinen adds.

Also see:U.S. not alone in battling high medical cost trends.

Some of the common steps employers are taking to combat hypertension, and enhance overall well-being, include providing fitness facilities, learning programs and tobacco cessation programs.

“Our analysis shows the value and necessity of these onsite health screenings for both organizations and their employees,” says Antonio Legorreta, president of engage2Health, Health Advocate’s health informatics division. “By identifying issues like hypertension sooner, employees can access appropriate treatment earlier, leading to improved health outcomes and reduced costs.”

What does the future have in store for wellness programs? Join our Twitter chat Dec. 16 at 12:30 p.m. EST, hosted by @EBN_Otto, to share your thoughts. Use #wellchat to participate.

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