The scary truth is that heart disease is the cause of death for 600,000 Americans annually. That means that one in four deaths in the United States is due to heart disease. No longer just a man’s problem, heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women, although more than half of the deaths due to heart disease in 2009 were in men. Coronary heart disease is the most common type of heart disease, killing nearly 380,000 people each year and costing about $109 billion dollars in health costs and lost productivity.

Not every heart attack results in death; about 720,000 Americans have a heart attack in a given year. Of these heart attacks, 515,000 are a person’s first and 205,000 are a person’s second or subsequent.

Heart Disease Deaths Vary by Ethnic Background

In the United States, African Americans, Hispanics, and whites all count heart disease as their number one killer. For American Indians, Alaska Natives, Asians, and Pacific Islanders heart disease is second only to cancer.

Percentage of Heart Disease related deaths, by ethnicity (2008):

African Americans: 24.5 percent

American Indians and Alaska Natives: 18.0 percent

Asians and Pacific Islanders: 23.2 percent

Hispanics: 20.8 percent

Whites: 25.1 percent

Overall: 25.0 percent

Heart Disease Deaths Vary by Area

Following the logic that 90 percent of heart disease is preventable with a healthy lifestyle; heart disease rates are higher in the south where diets are full of fatty, deep-fried foods and lower in whole grains and vegetables. Between 2008 and 2010, heart disease rates for adults 35 and older were highest in the South and lowest in the West. The highest rates of heart disease were found in counties within Mississippi, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Alabama as well as in Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, and Nevada.

Know the Warning Signs

Although most people know that chest pains are a sign of heart attack, many do not know the full range of symptoms and warnings:

  • Pain or discomfort in the chest
  • Pain or discomfort anywhere in the upper body including the arms, back, neck, jaw or upper stomach
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea, light headedness, or cold sweats

If you or someone that you are with is experiencing any of these symptoms, go to the emergency room immediately.

Health Risks for Heart Disease

High blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol, and smoking are all key risk factors for heart disease and one or more of these symptoms affect 49 percent of Americans!

If you are overweight, have Type 2 diabetes, drink alcohol in excess, eat poorly, smoke, or do not exercise; you are at risk for developing heart disease.

Reduce your Risk for Heart Disease

The best things you can do to avoid heart disease are to improve your lifestyle. Get out for a brisk walk several days per week; eat plenty of whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables; limit deep fried foods; and quit smoking.

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