Frequently Asked Questions
Together, heart disease and stroke are among the most widespread and costly health problems facing the nation today, accounting for more than $312.6 billion* in health care expenditures and lost productivity annually—and these costs are rising.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States and is a major cause of disability. More than 600,000 people die of heart disease in the U.S. each year. That is 1 in every 4 of all U.S. deaths. In addition, heart disease is a leading cause of disability in the U.S.
Persons can take steps to lower their risk of developing heart disease by preventing or treating and controlling high blood pressure, preventing or treating and controlling high blood cholesterol, by not using tobacco, by preventing or controlling diabetes, and by maintaining adequate physical activity, weight, and a healthy diet. Persons being treated for conditions or risk factors should follow the guidance of their health care providers.
Some conditions as well as some lifestyle factors can put people at a higher risk for heart disease. The most important modifiable risk factors for heart disease are high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, cigarette smoking, diabetes, physical inactivity, unhealthy diet, and obesity. In principle, all persons can take steps to lower their risk for heart disease. For more information about these risk factors, please see our section on risk factors.
Death or permanent disability can result from a heart attack. The risk of death or permanent damage can be reduced with timely treatment. Some newer treatments need to be given soon after the onset of a heart attack in order to be effective. It is important to know the symptoms of a heart attack and act right away.
If you think that you or someone you know is having a heart attack, you should call 9–1–1 immediately..
The National Heart Attack Alert Program notes these major symptoms of a heart attack: Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts for more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back. The discomfort can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain. Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. This can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach. Shortness of breath. This often comes along with chest discomfort. But it also can occur before chest discomfort. Other symptoms. These may include breaking out in a cold sweat or experiencing nausea or light–headedness.