High blood pressure is a leading cause of heart disease and stroke because it damages the lining of the arteries, making them more susceptible to the buildup of plaque, which narrows the arteries leading to the heart and brain. About 116 million US adults (nearly 1 in 2) have high blood pressure, defined as 130/80 mm Hg or higher. Only about 1 in 4 of these people have their high blood pressure under control. About 7 in 10 people who have a first heart attack and 8 in 10 people who have a first stroke have high blood pressure.
Eating too much sodium can lead to high blood pressure. Americans aged 2 years or older consume an average of about 3,400 mg of sodium each day, well over the 2,300 mg recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. More than 70% of the sodium Americans consume is added outside the home (before purchase), not added as salt at the table or during home cooking.
High LDL cholesterol can double a person’s risk of heart disease. That’s because excess cholesterol can build up in the walls of arteries and limit blood flow to a person’s heart, brain, kidneys, other organs, and legs. Although nearly 86 million US adults could benefit from taking medicine to manage their high LDL cholesterol, only about half (55%) are doing so.
People can improve their blood pressure and cholesterol levels by eating a healthy diet that is low in sodium, being physically active, maintaining a healthy weight, and taking medicines as recommended.
CDC’s Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention (DHDSP) works with partners across government, public health, health care, and private sectors to improve prevention, detection, and control of heart disease and stroke risk factors, with a focus on high blood pressure and high cholesterol. DHDSP also works to improve recognition of the signs and symptoms of a heart attack or stroke and the quality of care prior to and following these events.
Through its scientific and programmatic investments, DHDSP advances proven strategies such as using electronic health records to identify patients at risk and using teams to deliver high-quality care. These teams extend beyond the doctors and nurses to include pharmacists, community health workers, and others outside of the doctor’s office. The division also promotes strategies that link patients to community programs and resources that help them take their medicines consistently, manage their risks, and make healthy lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking, becoming more physically active, or losing weight.
The following major programs support the division’s goals:
- DHDSP funds heart disease and stroke prevention and management activities in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, 12 tribes, 23 tribal-serving organizations, 5 large cities or counties, and 2 groups of city and county health departments. These programs work to reduce risk factors for heart disease and stroke and eliminate health disparities through community and health system interventions.
- WISEWOMAN funds 21 states and 3 tribal organizations to reduce heart disease and stroke risk factors for women aged 40 to 64 with low incomes and little or no health insurance.
- The Paul Coverdell National Acute Stroke Program funds 13 states to use coordinated systems of care to improve the quality of care for patients who have a stroke.
Million Hearts® provides national leadership to promote changes in communities and health care systems across the country to prevent heart attacks and strokes.