Americans see the human heart as the symbol of love. Since February is American Heart Month, it’s a good time to show yourself and your family some of that love. Learn about your risks for heart disease and stroke and stay “heart healthy” for yourself and your loved ones.

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) includes heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure and is the No. 1 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. CVD costs the United States over $300 billion each year, including the cost of healthcare services, medications and lost productivity.1

CVD 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 CVD.2

Having a close relative who has heart disease puts you at higher risk for CVD. 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. According to the CDC, nearly 44 percent of African-American men and 48 percent of African-American women have some form of CVD. And African Americans are more likely than any other racial or ethnic group to have high blood pressure and 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.1

Many CVD deaths could have been prevented through healthier habits, healthier living spaces, and better management of conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes. Click here to predict your chance of having a heart attack in the next 10 years.


  1. CDC Heart Disease Facts. (2015, January 28). Retrieved January 28, 2015, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
  2. Go, A. M. (2014). “Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics—2014 Update: A report from the American Heart Association.” Circulation, e28-e292.
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Author Information

Robin Cunningham, RN

Robin Cunningham, RN, is a director for Physician Services at HealthTrust. A cardiovascular care specialist, she previously served as a clinical director for SourceTrust and, prior to that, served in leadership positions with HCA for 25 years. Cunningham works with HealthTrust members on medical device contracting projects, product analysis, spend review and physician engagement. She is a member of the American College of Cardiology, serving as state liaison for Tennessee, as well as the American Heart Association Greater Southeast Affiliate for Mission Lifeline. Cunningham holds a bachelor’s degree in nursing from the Medical University of South Carolina and a master’s degree in nursing from Austin Peay State University. More Articles by This Author »