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And the Beat Goes on: Celebrate World Heart Day

Celebrate World Heart Day on September 29

September 29, 2013, will mark the 14th observance of World Heart Day. Each year, the World Heart Federation sponsors this event to raise awareness that cardiovascular disease, including heart disease and stroke, is the world’s leading cause of death. The observance takes place on the last Sunday in September every year.

Of the nearly 800,000 Americans who die of cardiovascular disease each year, three-quarters of them die of heart disease.1 The most common type of heart disease in the United States is coronary artery disease, which occurs when plaque builds up on the walls of the arteries carrying blood to the heart. Coronary artery disease can lead to heart attack, angina (chest pain), heart failure, and potentially dangerous changes in your heart rate or rhythm, called arrhythmia.

A stroke occurs when a clot blocks the blood supply to part of the brain or when a blood vessel in or around the brain bursts, causing parts of the brain to become damaged or die. Stroke is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States, killing nearly 130,000 Americans each year.1

A Lifetime of Heart Health

For World Heart Day 2013, the World Heart Federation is focusing on heart health across the lifespan, beginning before birth and continuing throughout life. Many early deaths caused by heart disease and stroke are preventable, according to the World Heart Federation and the latest report from CDC Vital Signs. That’s why you should start heart-healthy habits as early as possible and continue them throughout your life.1

Photo: Doctor and PatientWorld Heart Day 2013 also focuses, as it did in 2012, on women and children. Many people still do not associate cardiovascular disease with these two groups, but cardiovascular disease is the leading killer of US women, and congenital heart defects are the most common type of birth defect in the United States, affecting nearly 40,000 infants each year. In developing countries, rheumatic heart disease is the leading heart problem among children and adolescents. Learn more at CDC’s Congenital Heart Disease Web site.

Getting the Facts

In the United States in 2009, heart disease and stroke were the first and fourth leading killers.1 But cardiovascular disease does not affect all groups of people in the same way. For example, black men are almost twice as likely as white women to die of cardiovascular disease. Many think heart disease occurs in older people, but many of these deaths happen well before people reach the age of 75.

Did You Know?

  • Cardiovascular disease is the number 1 killer of women and men in the United States.
  • Most cardiovascular disease is preventable through healthy habits and lifestyle.

There are a number of risk factors for developing cardiovascular disease, but you can control many of them. Examples of risks that you can control include the following:

Having a close relative who has heart disease also puts you at higher risk for cardiovascular disease.

Make Healthy Your Habit

Although risk factors for cardiovascular disease are becoming more common in the United States, the good news is that you can lower your risk of cardiovascular disease by making healthy lifestyle choices. Some steps that you can take to lower your risk include the following:

  • Visit your doctor. Get a checkup at least once each year. Your doctor can check for conditions that are risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
  • Eat a healthy diet that is low in sodium, saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol and high in fresh fruits and vegetables. For more information, visit CDC’s Nutrition Web site.
  • Get active by taking a brisk 10-minute walk, 3 times a day, 5 days a week. Do more if you can. Remember to incorporate exercise into your day in different ways like taking the stairs instead of the elevator or raking the yard instead of using the leaf blower. Exercising with friends and family can be a great way to stay healthy and have fun. Learn more at CDC’s Physical Activity Web site.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. What weight is right for you? One way to determine if you are at a healthy weight is to calculate your body mass index (BMI), which is based on your height and weight. For most people, BMI is a reliable indicator of body fatness. Learn more at CDC’s Healthy Weight Web site.
  • Don’t smoke. If you do smoke, quit as soon as possible. Ask your doctor for help in making a plan to quit or call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (800-784-8669; TTY 800-332-8615). Learn more about quitting at CDC’ Smoking and Tobacco Use Web site.
  • Moderate alcohol intake. If you choose to drink alcoholic beverages, do not exceed one drink per day for women or two drinks per day for men. Learn more at CDC’s Alcohol and Public Health Web site.
  • Join Million Hearts®! Million Hearts® is a national initiative to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes by 2017. Learn how to live a heart-healthy life at the Million Hearts Web site.

Most heart disease is preventable. On this World Heart Day, take steps today to protect your own heart and share these healthy habits with your family and friends to protect their hearts too.


  1. Kochanek KD, Xu JQ, Murphy SL, Miniño AM, Kung HC. Deaths: final data for 2009 [PDF-2M]. Natl Vital Stat Rep. 2011;60(3).
  • Page last reviewed: September 23, 2013
  • Page last updated: September 23, 2013
  • Content source:
    • Office of the Associate Director for Communication, Digital Media Branch, Division of Public Affairs
    • Page maintained by: Office of the Associate Director for Communication, Digital Media Branch, Division of Public Affairs