Cardiovascular disease—including heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure—is the number one killer of both men and women in the United States. It is a leading cause of disability, preventing Americans from working and enjoying family activities.1 Cardiovascular disease costs the United States over $300 billion each year, including the cost of health care services, medications, and lost productivity.1

Cardiovascular disease does not affect all groups of people in the same way. Although the number of preventable deaths has declined in people aged 65 to 74 years, it has remained unchanged in people under age 65. Men are more than twice as likely as women to die from preventable cardiovascular disease.2

Having a close relative who has heart disease puts you at higher risk for cardiovascular disease. Health disparities based on geography also exist. During 2007–2009, death rates due to heart disease were the highest in the South and lowest in the West.

Race and ethnicity also affect your risk. Nearly 44% of African American men and 48% of African American women have some form of cardiovascular disease. And African Americans are more likely than any other racial or ethnic group to have high blood pressure and to develop the condition earlier in life. About two in five African American adults have high blood pressure, yet fewer than half of them have the condition under control.

Many cardiovascular disease deaths could have been prevented through healthier habits, healthier living spaces, and better management of conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes.2

You can control a number of risk factors for cardiovascular disease, including:

  • Diet
  • Physical activity
  • Tobacco use
  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure
  • High blood cholesterol
  • Diabetes

Plan for Prevention

Try out these strategies for better heart health:

  • Get a checkup at least once each year
  • Monitor your blood pressure
  • Get your cholesterol checked
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Exercise regularly
  • Don't smoke
  • Limit alcohol use
  • Manage your diabetes
  • Take your medicine


  1. Go AS, Mozaffarian D, Roger VL, Benjamin EJ, Berry JD, Blaha MJ, et al. Heart disease and stroke statistics—2014 update: a report from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2013 [Epub ahead of print].
  2. CDC. Vital Signs: avoidable deaths from heart disease, stroke, and hypertensive disease—United States, 2001–2010. MMWR. 2013;62(35);721–7.

Content Source: National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention