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Heart Disease: How Exercise Can Prevent a Silent Killer

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The next time you’re standing in line at the coffee shop, notice the people around you. Some may look healthy, others less so, but appearance can’t tell you if any of them is being stalked by a silent killer. Imagine this scenario:

There are six other people in the coffee shop with you on an ordinary morning: three men and three women.

One of the men and one of the women have a very serious medical condition. Statistically, one in three Americans suffers from this condition (CDC website).

There may be no signs or symptoms to warn them of this condition and left unchecked, it could turn into something even more serious.

Two other coffee shop patrons are part of the 70 million Americans who suffer from another very serious condition. Five years ago the man at the front of the line suffered a heart attack because of his condition. He thinks he has it under control, but later this year he’ll have another heart attack and undergo a double bypass surgery.

The woman behind you suffers from this condition as well. Because she is thin and rarely gets sick, she skips her yearly doctor’s appointments. At the age of 55, she’ll die from a heart attack that could have been prevented. All of her friends and family will say how shocked they are and how unexpected her death was

What is this silent killer?

Heart disease is the number one killer of men and women in America (CDC website).

Nearly half of all Americans, according to the CDC, have at least one of the top three risk factors for heart disease:

  •         High blood pressure (hypertension)
  •         High cholesterol (hyperlipidemia)
  •         Smoking

Smoking is obvious, either you do it or you don’t, but the other two usually aren’t so obvious.

High blood pressure and high cholesterol come with no warning signs until it is nearly too late.

About 610,000 Americans die each year as a result of heart disease (CDC website).

The good news is both hypertension and hyperlipidemia are mostly influenced by lifestyle choices, which means you have the power to prevent this silent killer.

Hypertension and hyperlipidemia are like ninjas. They’re sneaky, and to survive a ninja attack, you must understand your opponent and be one (or two) steps ahead of it.

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What is hypertension?

Hypertension is high blood pressure, and it occurs when the elasticity of your blood vessels start to decrease.

Your veins and arteries get stiffer, which happens naturally as you age, but if you live a sedentary lifestyle, you speed up this process (Knopf, 2012).

The only way to know whether you have hypertension, or are at risk for developing it, is to check your blood pressure regularly.

How to get a blood pressure test

Don’t worry. It’s easy.

The test for blood pressure is quick and painless. All you need to submit to is having a blood pressure cuff wrapped around your upper arm to block blood flow. As pressure is released, you get two blood pressure measurements:

  • Systolic blood pressure. This measures the pressure your blood exerts on blood vessels as your heart contracts and squeezes blood out to the rest of the body.
  • Diastolic blood pressure. This measures the pressure of your blood on blood vessels as your heart relaxes after a contraction.

Your blood pressure reading will include these two numbers and look something like this: 110/60. The systolic pressure is on the top and diastolic on the bottom.


 Systolic: less than 120 mmHg

 Diastolic: less than 80 mmHg


 Systolic: 120-139 mmHg

 Diastolic: 80-89 mmHg


 Systolic: 140 mmHg or higher

 Diastolic: 90 mmHg or highe

It is crucial to have your blood pressure measured and tracked regularly.

It’s a good idea to visit your doctor regularly for checkups that include blood pressure measurement, but you are not limited to the doctor’s office for a blood pressure check.

Most pharmacies have a blood pressure machine, as do most fire departments. You can also get a home blood pressure device and even connect it to your smartphone to keep track of readings.

What is hyperlipidemia?

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that is necessary for your body in small amounts, but excessive amounts can be damaging

Too much cholesterol in your blood causes your blood vessels will start to stiffen—which could lead to hypertension—and creates blockages.

When your arteries are blocked, you are at a greater risk for a heart attack. The only way to know whether you have high cholesterol is to head to the doctor and get tested.

How to test your cholesterol levels

Testing for cholesterol in the blood isn’t quite as easy as using a blood pressure cuff.

You will need to go to your doctor for this test and the CDC recommends you do it every five years at least.

To measure your cholesterol, your doctor will draw blood and measure total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, and triglycerides.

 Healthy Cholesterol Levels

 Total Cholesterol

 Less than 200 mg/dL

 LDL (“bad” cholesterol)

 Less than 100 mg/dL

 HDL (“good” cholesterol)

 60 mg/dL or higher


 Less than 150 mg/dL

Get two steps ahead of your enemy

Over 200,000 deaths from heart disease are completely preventable (CDC Website), but as they say:

“The best offense is a great defense.”

You can stay two steps ahead of the twin ninjas of high blood pressure and high cholesterol by going on the defense. Use preventative measures, which mostly comes down to exercise.

People who are mostly sedentary are one and a half times more likely to have a heart attack than those who live active lifestyles (Knopf, 2012).

Inactive people are also three times more likely than their active counterparts to die from a heart attack (Knopf, 2012).

Cardiovascular exercise benefits your heart, your blood vessels, and your lungs. Keeping your cardiovascular system healthy prevents heart disease.

The American Heart Association recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week. Think of “moderate-intensity” as a brisk walk where you are slightly winded, but can keep up a conversation.

How does cardio prevent heart disease?

Your heart is a muscle, similar to your biceps, hamstrings, and abdominals. However, your heart doesn’t ever get to rest.

Your heart works constantly to keep blood flowing to every part of your body. To keep it healthy, you have to challenge it.  

When you go for a brisk walk, take a swim, go for a bike ride, take a hike, or have a dance-off with your kids, your heart rate and respiratory rate increase to keep up with the workload you place on your body. 

Regular cardio activity (Knopf, 2012) does the following:

  • Increases your cardiovascular work capacity
  • Lowers your resting heart rate
  • Lowers your total cholesterol
  • Increases your good cholesterol
  • Lowers your blood pressure
  • Increases your body’s oxygen consumption 

Your secret weapon is accountability

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The American Heart Association and other organizations have done their best to educate the public about how to prevent heart disease.

And yet, Americans still struggle to get enough exercise to be healthy. We know what to do, so why don’t we do it?

Every personal development guru, business coach, life coach, and sports coach will tell you that you must be held accountable for your goals or you will not achieve them. That is especially true when it comes to health and wellness.

Don’t think you will stick to 30 minutes of exercise, five days a week?

Get yourself an accountability partner; someone who is dedicated to your health and knows how to help you improve it.

Hire a certified personal trainer

Hiring a personal trainer might be the best investment you make in your health.

Why? A good personal trainer will work closely with you and your physician to create a personalized program that meets you where you are and helps you achieve your goals and the goals your physician sets for your health markers.

And, best of all, you have someone to hold you accountable, someone to make you work out, even when you feel like slacking off.

When you work with an ISSA certified fitness professional, you’ll receive a comprehensive wellness plan:

Cardiovascular training. Your trainer will assess your current level of cardiovascular fitness and create a specialized program to help you improve your fitness level. It will include activities that you enjoy, with a routine that fits into your schedule, and that is safe and effective for improving your current condition.

Nutritional planning. Nutrition and exercise go hand-in-hand to prevent heart disease. Many ISSA Certified Trainers have a fitness nutrition or sports nutrition certification and can help you create a well-balanced meal plan that is also practical and cost-effective.

Goal setting and tracking. Every certified trainer has the organizational tools to help you set and achieve your goals. Not only will you begin with initial fitness and body composition assessments, your trainer will establish a timeline for reassessments. These periodic reassessments create short-term goals to make your big goals more manageable.

Accountability and motivation. Many certified trainers are the best in the industry. Many of our trainers have amazing body transformation stories. Many of them have turned their health around by becoming fitness trainers. Who better to trust your health to than someone who has traveled the same path?

What are you waiting for?

Hypertension and hyperlipidemia are silent killers, ninjas who sneak up and silently wreak havoc on your body.

Remember, over 600,000 people die from cardiovascular disease each year and one-third of those deaths is preventable.

When you partner with a Certified Personal Trainer, you’ll receive the training and education necessary to prevent heart disease.

First things first: Call your doctor and schedule a check-up.

Then, call a Certified Personal Trainer and schedule your initial consultation. In just a few weeks you’ll notice that you have more energy, you sleep better, and you may even like the image you see in the mirror a little better.

There is no better time than now. We’ll talk to you soon.

If you're interested in learning more about becoming a certified trainer and helping others, check out our ISSA Certified Personal Trainer Course.

Christina Estrada


1. Heart Disease in the United States - Center for Disease Control and Prevention

2. CDC Press Release - September 3, 2013:  CDC finds 200,000 heart disease and stroke deaths could be prevented

3. Knopf, Karl. Specialist in Senior Fitness, Third Edition, 2013.  International Sports Sciences Association.