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Heart Disease: America’s Killer

by Michelle Matte, MSEd, CSCS

The Numbers Say It All

For decades, Cardiovascular Disease, or CVD, has been the number one killer in the United States. According to the American Heart Association, over 800,000 Americans die each year from CVD. A 2011 study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that changing lifestyle behaviors is a highly effective way to reduce the risk of CVD. Participants in the study reduced their CVD risk by 65 percent through smoking cessation, increased physical activity, moderation of alcohol consumption and consuming a healthy diet.

heart in globe

It’s a Global Problem

The prevalence of CVD is world-wide, and CVD is the primary cause of world death, making up 31 percent of all causes of death globally. The World Health Organization, or WHO, notes that over three quarters of deaths from CVD occur in low- and middle-income countries. This last statistic is of interest when you consider that the United States is categorized as an affluent country, yet CVD is rampant in the US.

The Good News

The good news is that the rate of death from CVD has been declining slightly in the New Millennium. However, the decline is due mostly to innovations in interventions, including surgical procedures and pharmaceuticals, and not to a decrease in the incidence of CVD. Most cardiovascular diseases are caused by behavioral risk factors, according to the WHO. Tobacco use, unhealthy diet, obesity, physical inactivity and harmful use of alcohol are cited as the primary causes. All of these factors can be addressed by behavior modification.

heart attack man

The Not-So-Good News

Diabetes, obesity and metabolic syndrome, all precursors to CVD, are all on the rise. Large portion sizes, processed foods, sedentary lifestyle and stress are all linked to negative health trends. Reversing these trends by consuming whole fresh organic foods, restricting or eliminating sugar and grains from the diet and engaging in daily vigorous exercise are all ways to decrease metabolic disease and eliminate CVD risk. Misleading marketing of processed foods, and the promotion of pharmaceuticals as an alternative to lifestyle change, leave many confused about how to best improve their health.

wits oa heart health

The Fitness Professional’s Role

To effectively help your clients combat CVD and other metabolic disorders, you must be well informed and educated. Your clients will come armed with a plethora of misleading and inaccurate information, and you will have to effectively dispel it. Staying on the cutting edge by reading professional journals and interacting with other professionals in the fitness community will help you help your clients. Keeping your certification current by enrolling in continuing education classes will keep you up to speed with the latest information. Reading your monthly WITS Newsletter and regularly reading the WITS blog will also help you to stay informed. Pass your knowledge on to your clients verbally, or consider creating your own newsletter to distribute to your clients monthly.


Keep on the cutting edge of knowledge about CVD and metabolic disease by actively participating in the many courses and seminars offered by WITS. Our professional educators will keep you informed and motivated, and help you grow as a professional in the best career ever!

References and Credits

American Heart Association: Trends in CVD and Stroke Mortality


American Journal of Public Health: Low-Risk Lifestyle Behaviors and All-Cause Mortality: Findings from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey III Mortality Study.


The Heart Foundation: Heart Disease: Scope and Impact

Heart Disease Statistics


World Health Organization: Cardiovascular Diseases (CVDs)


*Images courtesy of


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