Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Stroke is the fifth-leading cause of death. Currently, more than 1 in 3 adults (85.6 million) live with one or more types of cardiovascular disease. Together, heart disease and stroke, along with other cardiovascular diseases, are among the most widespread and costly health problems facing the nation, accounting for approximately $320 billion in health care and related expenditures annually. Fortunately, they are also among the most preventable. Leading controllable risk factors for heart disease and stroke are:
- High blood pressure: affecting approximately 1 in 3 adults in the United States with only about half having it under control
- High cholesterol
- Cigarette smoking
- Unhealthy diet with high salt intake that increases the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke. About 90% of American adults exceed their daily recommendation for sodium intake.
- Physical inactivity
Over time, these risk factors cause changes in the heart and blood vessels that can lead to heart attacks, heart failure, and strokes. The risk of Americans developing and dying from cardiovascular disease would be substantially reduced if major improvements were made in diet and physical activity, control of high blood pressure and cholesterol, cessation of smoking, and appropriate aspirin use. The cardiovascular health and quality of life of Americans could thus be improved through prevention, detection, and treatment of heart attack and stroke risk factors; early identification and treatment of heart attacks and strokes; and further prevention of repeat cardiovascular events.