According to the World Health Organization cardiovascular diseases are the number one cause of death globally. More people die annually from cardiovascular diseases than from any other cause.
An estimated 17.3 million people died from cardiovascular diseases in 2008, representing 30% of all global deaths. Of these deaths, an estimated 7.3 million were due to coronary heart disease. In the US, heart disease accounted for 24% of all deaths in 2010. Yet 80% of heart disease deaths are preventable through lifestyle changes such as physical activity, diet, alcohol consumption, and smoking.
Heart Disease Death & Obesity/Overweight Correlation to Physical Activity Levels in the U.S.
In the United States there is a strong correlation between physical activity levels and heart disease death rates as the bubble chart below shows. The most physically active populations by state, such as Colorado, Hawaii, and Oregon have much lower heart disease death rates than states with low physical activity levels such as Tennessee and Mississippi. The size of the bubbles in this chart relates to the rate of obesity and overweight for each state. For the statistics geeks out there, the Pearson correlation coefficient for the physical activity levels and heart disease death rate in this dataset is -0.73, indicating a strong correlation.
Cardiovascular Disease Death & Obesity Correlation to Physical Activity Levels, US, Canada, EU
Looking at Western EU nations along with the US and Canada, we can see a different picture, where the correlation between physical activity levels and heart disease death rates is not nearly as strong.
Note about the Data
Note that in the first image for the US, the bubble sizes were percentage of adults who are obese or overweight, whereas in the following plot, the bubble sizes are just representing obesity rate and does not include those who are considered overweight but not obese. Also, the data for heart disease and cardiovascular disease came from two different sources. In the first plot of just the US, the heart disease data came from the Kaiser Family Foundation website. In the second plot the data, including the data for the US, came from the World Health Organization website.