Cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 killer of both men and women in the United States. Almost 2,300 Americans die every day from cardiovascular diseases-that's one person every 38 seconds. Cardiovascular diseases claim more lives each year than cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases and accidents combined. Every year, approximately 785,000 Americans have their first heart attack. Another 470,000 Americans who have already had at least one heart attack will have another one.

Because of these high statistics, Congress since 1963 has required the President to proclaim February "American Heart Month." This effort is led by the American Heart Association.

In 1999, the AHA set impact goals to reduce cardiovascular disease and risk by 25 percent by 2010. Despite the above statistics, the impact goals for 2010 were met, with a 27.8 percent decline in the cardiovascular death rate. However, statistics have also shown an increase of 27 percent in the total number of inpatient cardiovascular operations and procedures.

A new impact goal has been set for 2020. This goal is aimed at improving the cardiovascular health of all Americans by 20 percent, while reducing deaths from cardiovascular disease by 20 percent

There are many steps that you can take to increase your overall cardiovascular health.
Know the risk factors for cardiovascular disease:

- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Diabetes
- Tobacco use (within the past year)
- Diets high in saturated fats, cholesterol, high salt and high sodium
- Physical inactivity
- Obesity
- Excessive alcohol use
- Family history

Lower your risk of developing cardiovascular disease:

- Eat a healthy diet.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Exercise regularly.
- Don't smoke.
- Limit alcohol use.
- Have your cholesterol checked.
- Monitor your blood pressure.
- Manage your diabetes.
- Take your medicine.
- Talk with your healthcare provider.

More information:
- American Heart Association,
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,