Meet America’s Number One Killer

Will be you be a victim of Americaís number one killer?

February is American Heart Month
In addition to being Americaís number one killer, cardiovascular disease is also a major cause of disability. While celebrating with Valentine hearts this month, letís be mindful of the hard-working heart that keeps us alive and give it a little TLC. Learn the warning signs and symptoms of heart attack and stroke.

Surprising Facts About Cardiovascular Disease

  • More than 82 million American adults are estimated to have one or more types of cardiovascular disease — thatís one in three people.
  • On average 2,200 Americans die of cardiovascular disease each day.
  • Heart disease is the number one cause of death among women 20 and older, killing about one woman every minute.
  • More women die of heart disease than the next four causes of death combined — including all forms of cancer.
  • Ninety percent of women have one or more risk factors for developing heart disease.
  • Between 70 and 89 percent of sudden cardiac events occur in men.
  • A report by The Institute of Medicine finds that even brief exposure to secondhand smoke can trigger a heart attack.

Warning Signs of Heart Attack
Some heart attacks come on quickly and with intense symptoms, but most begin with mild pain or discomfort, leading victims to delay medical care. Signs of potential heart attack are:

  • Discomfort, pressure, or pain in the center of the chest, sometimes going away and returning later.
  • Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, back, neck, jaw, or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Cold sweats, nausea, lightheadedness.

The American Heart Association, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the American Red Cross, and the national Council on Aging have launched the Act in Time campaign to increase awareness of heart attack signs and symptoms and the importance of calling 9-1-1 before itís too late. Delay could prove fatal.

Warning Signs of Stroke

  • Weakness of face, arm, or leg, especially if it is concentrated on one side of the body.
  • Confusion or difficulty speaking or understanding.
  • Trouble seeing out of one or both eyes.
  • Dizziness, loss of balance or coordination, trouble walking.
  • Severe headache of unknown origin.

Every second counts — heart attack and stroke are life-threatening! Seek medical care immediately.

Lifestyle and Cardiovascular Disease
High cholesterol, high blood pressure, and obesity are major risk factors for heart disease and stroke. These may be controlled by diet and exercise.

  • Diet: A healthy diet is one of the easiest ways to fight heart disease. Forget about fad diets and pledge to read food labels and eat healthy — for life. Beware of saturated and trans fats, cut back on foods high in cholesterol, reduce sugar and sodium intake. Control portion sizes. If you have too much fat ó especially if a lot of it is located in your waist area ó you’re at higher risk of heart disease.
  • Exercise: Lack of physical activity is a risk factor for heart disease and indirectly increases the risk of stroke. A little exercise goes a long way! Thirty minutes of moderate activity each day can be broken up into ten minute intervals. If itís been awhile since youíve exercised, start small and work your way up. Walking is a great way to begin moving toward a healthier future.
  • Tobacco Smoke: Smoking is the single most preventable cause of death in the United States and a major cause of cardiovascular heart disease. Exposure to secondhand smoke increases the risk, even for smokers. Women smokers who use birth control pills have a higher risk of heart attack and stroke than nonsmokers who use them.

Affordable Care Act and Heart Disease
Under the Affordable Care Act, all new individual and group health plans must now provide recommended preventive care and services with no co-payment, co-insurance, or deductible — that includes blood pressure, diabetes, cholesterol, and body mass index tests, and counseling on quitting smoking, losing weight, and maintaining a proper diet.

What are you doing for your heart this month?

Sources: The American Heart Association, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Photo courtesy of

Writer Ann Pietrangelo is a regular contributor to Care2 Healthy & Green Living and Care2 Causes, and is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors and The Authorís Guild. Follow on Twitter @AnnPietrangelo


Barbara Erdman
Barbara Erdman8 years ago


Melissa Mcauliffe

Well, I had an echo and discovered I'm one of the 6% of the population with valve disease. Mitral and Tricuspid valve disease! Wonderful. Luckily I'm perfectly healthy with my coronaries and cholesterol and weight. And I eat the right amount of chocolate every day! Ha ha

Trish K.
Trish K8 years ago

It's that dang exercise thing with me. My grandmother had heart problems and my older sister had some a couple of years ago.
In order to make enough points to donate you have to sit at the computer just about all day. How about making it a little faster.

Leanne T.
Leanne T8 years ago

I'm a student paramedic currently on placement. In the month I've been on shifts, so far I'd approximate 80-90% of my patients have been those with cardiac problems and/or strokes. These diseases affect both the old and the young I had a patient just 38 years of age have a massive heart attack. Do what you can as early as you can to prevent it happening to you.

Cheryl B.
Cheryl B8 years ago


Karen W.
Karen W8 years ago

Thanks, I will try to stay away from smokers and not eat so much chocolate.

Sue Matheson
Sue Matheson8 years ago


Teresa Wlosowicz
Teresa W8 years ago

Sorry for the double comment.

Teresa Wlosowicz
Teresa W8 years ago

I thought the red thing was an apple.

Teresa Wlosowicz
Teresa W8 years ago

I thought the red thing was an apple...