Million Hearts: Preventing Heart Attacks and Strokes

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Heart Disease

Heart disease refers to several types of heart conditions. The most common type in the United States is coronary artery disease, which can cause heart attack, severe chest pain, heart failure, and irregular heartbeat. Several factors contribute to heart disease, including genetics, high blood pressure and cholesterol, and lifestyle factors such as smoking, unhealthy diet, and lack of exercise.


Stroke is a brain attack that occurs when blood flow to the brain becomes blocked. This can be caused either by a blood clot or by a burst blood vessel in or around the brain. Lack of blood flow during stroke can cause portions of the brain to become damaged, often beyond repair.

Cardiovascular Disease

Cardiovascular disease is a broad term for all diseases that affect the heart or blood vessels. This includes heart attack and stroke as well as conditions such as high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, and aortic aneurism.

Heart Disease and Race

Heart disease remains the leading cause of death in the United States for adults of all races. However, there are big differences in the rates of heart disease and stroke between different racial and ethnic groups. Some minority groups are more likely to be affected by heart disease and stroke than others-which contributes to lower life expectancy found among minorities.

As of 2007, African American men were 30% more likely to die from heart disease than were non-Hispanic white men. African American adults of both genders are 40% more likely to have high blood pressure and 10% less likely than their white counterparts to have their blood pressure under control. African Americans also have the highest rate of high blood pressure of all population groups, and they tend to develop it earlier in life than others.

Stroke and Race and Ethnicity

Stroke is among the five leading causes of death for people of all races and ethnicities. But the risk of having a stroke varies. Compared to whites, African Americans are at nearly twice the risk of having a first stroke. Hispanic Americans' risk falls between the two. Moreover, African Americans and Hispanics are more likely to die following a stroke than are whites.

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