Biometric testing is a simple screening tool that can provide information about personal health. These tests gather physical measurements and biometric data to assess employees’ health.
Employers use biometric screening to gather a baseline about employee health. You may have even seen campaigns urging workers to “know your numbers.”
This quick, convenient, and noninvasive process can be completed at work or at a local health clinic, making it a popular component for workplace wellness programs. They allow employers to set a standard of reference for employee health, and data to assess changes over time.
Results from biometric testing are key indicators of risk for serious health conditions.
Workplace wellness programs typically offer these assessments every year as part of their initiatives to educate employees about health risks and encourage better lifestyle choices.
So what does the test actually entail, and what can it measure? What are those numbers? What information can we learn from the results?
Here’s what’s included in this quick 15-20 minute test, and why it matters:
This test is completed with a standard blood pressure cuff. Blood pressure is recorded as two numbers and looks like a fraction. The ideal result is 120/80 mm Hg.
Your blood pressure consists of two numbers: systolic and diastolic. The first number, called systolic blood pressure, measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats. The second number, called diastolic blood pressure, measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart rests between beats.
When these numbers are higher than normal, that means you have high blood pressure, which can put you at risk for serious health conditions like heart attack and stroke.
The good news: those conditions are preventable, and you can treat high blood pressure with medication and lifestyle changes. That’s one reason why it’s important to test blood pressure regularly.
Cholesterol screenings measure fats in your blood, which includes HDL (“good” cholesterol) and LDL (“bad” cholesterol). Abnormal or elevated levels of these fats increase your risk of heart disease and stroke.
High cholesterol has no symptoms, but can lead to serious conditions like heart disease or heart attacks. A blood test is the only way to detect high cholesterol. A biometric screening will evaluate individual’s cholesterol with a test called a lipid profile.
Most screenings require participants to avoid eating or drinking before coming. Blood draws are either done with an IV, or with a finger prick; fasting before a blood test gives more accurate results.
HDL (good) cholesterol, helps remove LDL (bad) cholesterol from your arteries. LDL (bad) cholesterol contributes to plaque, a thick, hard deposit that can clog arteries. You want higher HDL levels and lower LDL.
The screening will also check your blood glucose levels. Blood glucose (also called blood sugar) comes from our food and drinks, and is the body’s main source of energy. However, having blood glucose that is too high can damage the body over time and lead to diabetes.
Prediabetes is a serious but preventable health condition where blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not high enough yet to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes, according to the CDC. Prediabetes can increase your risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
This condition also has few or no symptoms, but can be diverted with early screening and lifestyle changes. That’s a main reason why biometric screenings test your blood sugar!
A desirable blood glucose level is less than 100 mg/dL if you did the test after fasting (no food or drink for 8 hours) or less than 200mg/dL if you did not.
Body Mass Index (BMI)
BMI is a measure of overweight and obesity that is calculated from your weight and height. BMI provides an estimate of body fat and is used to gauge your risk of diseases, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers, that can develop from being overweight. The higher your BMI, the higher your risk of developing these weight related diseases. BMI does not take into account variations in body build or ethnicity, e.g., bone density or muscle mass.
This is the most common BMI assessment chart:
- Underweight: Less than 18.5
- Ideal Range: 18.5 – 24.9
- Overweight Range: 25.0 – 29.9
- Clinically Obese: 30.0 or more
However, BMI does not account for many other factors such as body type, build, bone density, or muscle mass. The results of this test can help participants get a sense of where they fit within the ideal BMI range.
It should not be viewed as the main indicator of health; it is possible to have a high BMI and still be a healthy individual!
Measuring weight circumference is not the only indicator of good health, but it provides an important data point.
“BMI reflects total body fat without regard to how the fat is distributed. And although no excess fat is good, one type of excess fat is much more dangerous than the others,” writes Harvard Health Publishing. “Research shows that abdominal fat is the worst of the worst.”
Screening results of this test can indicate possible health risks associated with being overweight. If most of your weight is around your waist, doctors say you’re at a much higher risk for developing heart disease or type 2 diabetes.
For cis men, doctors look for an ideal waist circumference of 40” or less. For cis women who are not pregnant, the ideal measurement is 35” or less.
What do employers see?
When offered as part of a workplace wellness program, it’s understandable that employees would have concerns about sharing or recording such private information.
Employers receive aggregate results of biometric testing.
But patient privacy laws mean that an employee’s department manager won’t ever know their BMI or blood pressure results — those are personal!
Instead, the results of corporate biometric screenings will often be compiled into a report of aggregated anonymous data. These reports can be used to create a standard reference for overall employee health year after year.
Biometric screenings give employers an opportunity to look at employee health from a high level, make adjustments in their health plan or wellness benefits, and addressing issues that affect the workforce.
Want to learn more about wellness benefits? Schedule an introductory call with IncentFit to discuss ways you can keep a pulse on employee health, or offer incentives for participating in important health screenings!