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A CEO’s Guide to Health and Wellness Programs

In the everyday race to keep your company going strong, it can be hard to find time to focus on your own well-being. Here’s a look at programs across the country that can help you take a proactive approach to maintaining your health.

CEOs who are adept at monitoring and caring for the health and well-being of their companies are not always on the ball when it comes to their own health. Some theorize that they don’t fully understand the risks or are in denial about their own mortality.

Dr. Walter Gaman, partner at Executive Medicine of Texas believes it’s a lot simpler than that: They literally don’t have time. “C-level executives are highly intelligent and they are aware of how important their health is. They’re just too busy to get to it.”

To be sure, running a global business has never been more demanding. Fifteen-hour days and back-to-back meetings force executives to put exercise on the back burner. Grueling road trips that continue for days or weeks at a time leave few options for healthy eating. As the days get longer, sleep suffers and mounting stress takes its toll on the body. That leaves CEOs paradoxically at greater-than-ever risk for heart disease, diabetes and other illnesses, but with less time than they have ever had to deal with it.

“What we want is for them not to wait for the event to get religion. Let’s get to it beforehand because there are no do-overs in health.

“For a lot of people, when they have a major health event, suddenly time opens up a bit,” says Kevin Dunsky, MD, director of the Executive Health Program of Mount Sinai Heart at The Mount Sinai Hospital. “What we want is for them not to wait for the event to get religion. Let’s get to it beforehand because there are no do-overs in health.”

Mt. Sinai’s executive health program is one of a growing number that cater to the busy manager by packing a smorgasbord of tests, screenings, nutrition and fitness counseling into a single, highly efficient day. When patients leave they take with them an overview of their health and recommendations for next steps to address specific health issues that were uncovered, as well as tools to improve their risk via diet, exercise and other lifestyle changes.

Over the past decade or so, executive health programs have proliferated, giving CEOs literally dozens to choose from. The following five questions can help you narrow the field and find the executive health program best suited to your needs.

1. IS THE PROGRAM AFFILIATED WITH A WELL-KNOWN MEDICAL CENTER? The integration with a hospital, university or other robust medical center gives clients immediate access to an array of top specialists and the latest in medical technology. It also saves considerable time if a physical uncovers something that needs a closer look by specialists—say, a skin lesion that requires a dermatological consult.

According to Dr. Richard S. Lang, vice chairman of the Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic and a physician in the executive health program, it’s that kind of coordination that separates real expertise in the field from what has increasingly become a commodity—the executive physical. “That’s the no-brainer,” says Lang. “The real-brainer is, what happens after that? Really well done executive health programs have the rest of the medical expertise available and can mobilize it that day,” he adds, noting that Cleveland Clinic, which was founded in 1921, boasts more than 3,000 physicians and scientists and integrates clinical and hospital care with research and education.

2. ARE PHYSICALS CUSTOMIZED? While some programs give the same standard tests to all patients, others customize based on age, gender, medical and family history, and other risk factors. “The key to any good executive health program is that it’s not cookie cutter,” says Lang. “If you take five executives from the same company, they will have five different protocols based on those factors.”

You should be asked to fill out a comprehensive medical history questionnaire well in advance of your visit and, more importantly, participate in an intake call with the physician who will coordinate your care. “That happens four to six weeks in advance of their visit, so we can go over the questionnaire, make sure we address any concerns and prioritize what they are going to do on the day,” says Dr. Lorrie Elliott, medical director of Northwestern Executive Health at Northwestern Medicine. This gives you an opportunity to let the doctor know if you’ve been having any symptoms or problems in any specific area and to make sure an appointment with a specialist is scheduled for that day.


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