Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, accounting for 24% of deaths in 2010. Yet 80% of these deaths are preventable through lifestyle changes. Four modifiable lifestyle risk factors are responsible for much of the illness, suffering, and early death related to chronic diseases; physical activity, poor nutrition, tobacco use, and excessive alcohol consumption.

Lack of physical activity

Regular physical activity is one of the most important things a person can do to stay healthy. Not only will physical activity increase one’s chances of living longer—it can also help control weight; reduce risks for cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and some cancers; strengthen bones and muscles; improve mental health and mood; and improve ability to do daily activities and prevent falls among older adults. The following graph shows physical activity levels and how those levels correlate to heart disease deaths and obesity for all states in the U.S. Those states that have the lowest level of physical activity have the highest heart disease death rate in the country.

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.


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Where to Learn More

Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans

Download 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans PDF

Physical Inactivity Estimates, by County

Download CDC Power of Prevention PDF


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