Heart Disease. Why don't we talk about it? - Part 2
By Ben Tyler, Head Coach and Owner
Heart or Cardiovascular Disease accounts for approximately 30% of all deaths in the U.S.
For those of us who have dedicated years of our lives to helping others improve their fitness and wellness, we’re well aware of the benefits of exercise. One of the most rewarding parts of our work is the fact that we are helping them increase their lifespans. This means more time for them to spend with their loved ones and more time to make a positive impact within their various spheres of influence.
I realized after reading Bill Gates’ tweet on what the media focuses its coverage on and what the most Googled subjects are that we as fitness and wellness professionals aren’t embracing our role’s responsibility to literally help save lives. Most people are searching for ways to look a certain way or lose X number of pounds. At 925, we focus more on helping our clients live fuller, longer lives by emphasizing proper nutrition, safe, effective, and functional exercise, and mental wellness (managing stress and maintaining a positive outlook). Despite our more holistic approach, we still haven’t singled out the alarming subject of Heart Disease and the research identifying how we can combat its onset and effects on daily life.
Here are a few interesting statistics to help drive home just how effective exercise is in fighting Heart Disease and overall mortality:
“For instance, being fit or active was associated with a greater than 50% reduction in risk.29 Furthermore, an increase in energy expenditure from physical activity of 1000 kcal (4200 kJ) per week or an increase in physical fitness of 1 MET (metabolic equivalent) was associated with a mortality benefit of about 20%. “ (1)
“Physically inactive middle-aged women (engaging in less than 1 hour of exercise per week) experienced a 52% increase in all-cause mortality, a doubling of cardiovascular-related mortality and a 29% increase in cancer-related mortality compared with physically active women” (1)
For those with established cardiovascular disease: “for a long time, rest and physical inactivity had been recommended for patients with heart disease….An energy expenditure of about 1600 kcal (6720 kJ) per week has been found to be effective in halting the progression of coronary artery disease, and an energy expenditure of about 2200 kcal (9240 kJ) per week has been shown to be associated with plaque reduction in patients with heart disease…In summary, regular physical activity is clearly effective in the secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease and is effective in attenuating the risk of premature death among men and women.” (1)
To note, this is from a study (linked below) from 2006. I use this to highlight the fact that we have known about the benefits for a long time, yet it isn’t discussed much unless in passing. People “know” exercise is good for them, but I believe we need to share the facts of just how beneficial it is.
“researchers have found that for heart attack patients who participated in a formal exercise program, the death rate is reduced by 20% to 25%.” (2)
“Healthy adults who are the least fit have a mortality risk that is 4.5 times that of the most fit. Surprisingly, an individual’s fitness level was a more important predictor of death than established risk factors such as smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes..” (2)
Again, the information above is from 2003, but it shows that by simply exercising regularly, we can make a huge dent in our chances of death from Heart Disease.
We have, and have had, the information showing us how much we can benefit from exercise, yet we still see most people ignoring it. What is surprising is that now, we’re still seeing that almost half of the U.S. population has Heart Disease. (3) From looking at the history, we did well as a country all the way up until the early 2000s and even 2010s, but now, we’re starting to slide. "After decades of a steady decline in the US, cardiovascular disease deaths are on the rise (840,678 deaths in 2016 up from 836,546 in 2015)," said the report.
From my perspective, we’ve remained passive for too long. Our passion for, and knowledge of, fitness and health is an amazing gift we can give to others, and a weapon against becoming a statistic. This information may not be flashy, but we need to share it, and encourage our friends and family to find a way to make exercise a part of their daily lives, because their lives may, quite literally, depend on it.