Men and Heart Disease

The term heart disease refers to several types of heart conditions, including coronary artery disease and heart attack.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men in the United States.1

This map shows death rates from heart disease in men in the United States. The darker red indicates a higher death rate.

Age adjusted average annual deaths, 2015 to 2017, per 100,000 among men ages 35 and older, by county. Rates range from 114.10 to 1295.6 per 100,000. The map shows that concentration of counties with the highest heart disease death rates - meaning the top quintile - are located primarily in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Georgia, Kentucky, Arkansas, and Tennessee, and parts of Nevada, Texas, South Carolina, and Missouri.

How does heart disease affect men?

  • Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men in the United States, killing 347,879 men in 2017—that’s about 1 in every 4 male deaths.1
  • Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men of most racial and ethnic groups in the United States, including African Americans, American Indians or Alaska Natives, Hispanics, and whites. For Asian American or Pacific Islander men, heart disease is second only to cancer.2
  • About 1 in 13 (7.7%) white men and 1 in 14 (7.1%) black men have coronary heart disease. About 1 in 17 (5.9%) Hispanic men have coronary heart disease.3
  • Half of the men who die suddenly of coronary heart disease had no previous symptoms.4 Even if you have no symptoms, you may still be at risk for heart disease.

What are the symptoms of heart disease?

Sometimes heart disease may be “silent” and not diagnosed until a man experiences signs or symptoms of a heart attack, heart failure, or an arrhythmia.5 When these events happen, symptoms may include

  • Heart attackChest pain or discomfort, upper back or neck pain, indigestion, heartburn, nausea or vomiting, extreme fatigue, upper body discomfort, dizziness, and shortness of breath.5
  • Arrhythmia: Fluttering feelings in the chest (palpitations).5
  • Heart failureShortness of breath, fatigue, or swelling of the feet, ankles, legs, abdomen, or neck veins.5

Even if you have no symptoms, you may still be at risk for heart disease.

What are the risks for heart disease?

High blood pressure, high LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, and smoking are key risk factors for heart disease. About half of Americans (47%) have at least one of these three risk factors.7

Several other medical conditions and lifestyle choices can also put people at a higher risk for heart disease, including

  • Diabetes
  • Overweight and obesity
  • Unhealthy diet
  • Physical inactivity
  • Excessive alcohol use

How can I reduce my risk of heart disease?

To reduce your chances of getting heart disease, it’s important to do the following:8

  • Know your blood pressure. Having uncontrolled blood pressure can result in heart disease. High blood pressure has no symptoms so it’s important to have your blood pressure checked regularly. Learn more about high blood pressure.
  • Talk to your health care provider about whether you should be tested for diabetes. Having diabetes raises your risk of heart disease.9 Learn more about diabetes.
  • Quit smoking. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do smoke, learn ways to quit.
  • Discuss checking your cholesterol and triglyceride levels with your health care provider. Learn more about cholesterol.
  • Make healthy food. Having overweight or obesity raises your risk of heart disease. Learn more about overweight and obesity.
  • Limit alcohol intake to one drink a day. Learn more about alcohol.
  • Lower your stress level and find healthy ways to cope with stress. Learn more about coping with stress.

More Information

CDC’s Public Health Efforts Related to Heart Disease

For more information on men and heart disease, visit the following websites:

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. Underlying Cause of Death, 1999–2017. Accessed January 7, 2019.
  2. Heron M. Deaths: leading causes for 2016pdf icon [PDF-2.3M]. Natl Vital Stat Rep. 2018;67(6):1–77. Accessed May 9, 2019.
  3. Benjamin EJ, Virani SS, Callaway CW, Chamberlain AM, Chang AR, Cheng S, et al. Heart disease and stroke statistics—2018 update: a report from the American Heart Associationexternal iconCirculation. 2018;137(12):e67–492. Accessed May 9, 2019.
  4. Roger VL, Go AS, Lloyd-Jones DM, Benjamin EJ, Berry JD, Borden WB, et al. Heart disease and stroke statistics—2012 update: a report from the American Heart Associationexternal iconCirculation. 2012;125(1):e2–220. Accessed May 9, 2019.
  5. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Ischemic Heart Diseaseexternal icon. Accessed October 2, 2018.
  6. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Strokeexternal icon. Accessed October 2, 2018.
  7. Fryar CD, Chen T-C, Li X. Prevalence of uncontrolled risk factors for cardiovascular disease: United States, 1999–2010 pdf icon[PDF – 494 KB]. NCHS data brief, no. 103. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics; 2012. Accessed May 9, 2019.
  8. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Million Hearts®. Preventionexternal icon. Accessed October 2, 2018.
  9. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Diabetes, Heart Disease, & Strokeexternal icon. Accessed October 2, 2018.