Think red in February! Hearts are everywhere this month as we celebrate Valentine’s Day and National Heart Disease Awareness Month.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and prevention, heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. Heart diseases vary by type and cause but, collectively kill about 610,000 people in the United States each year – that’s 1 in every 4 deaths. 1 


What is heart disease?

There are several types of heart conditions which fall in the category, “heart disease.” The most common type of heart disease in the United States is Coronary Artery Disease (CAD). CAD affects the blood flow to the heart; decreased blood flow can cause a heart attack. Other types of heart disease may include valves in the heart or a heart which cannot pump hard enough on its own.

Heart disease is caused when plaque builds up in the arteries. The plague narrows the insides of the arteries and may lessen or block the flow of blood to your heart. Plaques can also rupture, forming blood clots. Some people are born with heart disease and some people develop it over time.


Are you at risk?

Anyone can develop heart disease, even children. Smoking, eating an unhealthy diet, not getting enough exercise and excessive alcohol use all increase your risk for having heart disease. Having diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure can also increase your risk for developing the disease.

Symptoms of heart disease may vary depending on the type. Chest discomfort or even a heart attack are often the first sign. Early action is crucial for heart attacks as the survival chances are greater when emergency treatment begins quickly. About 47% of sudden cardiac deaths occur outside a hospital. 2 This suggests that many people with heart disease don’t act on early warning signs.

Heart attacks have several major warning signs and symptoms:

  • Chest pain or discomfort.
  • Upper body pain or discomfort in the arms, back, neck, jaw, or upper stomach.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Nausea, lightheadedness, or cold sweats.


How can I help prevent heart disease?

Take control of your heart health! Living a healthy lifestyle can help keep your blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol normal – lowering your risk for developing heart disease or having a heart attack. It is also important to prevent other diseases and treat them properly if they are developed. A healthy lifestyle includes:

  • Eating a healthy diet.
  • Maintaining a healthy weight.
  • Getting enough physical activity.
  • Not smoking or using tobacco products.
  • Limiting alcohol use.


  1. CDC, Deaths: Final Data for 2009.
  2. CDC, State Specific Mortality from Sudden Cardiac Death: United States, 1999(