Heart Health: We Track That!

February is American Heart Month—a great time to learn how you can show your heart some love and find out what CDC is doing to improve understanding of heart disease trends across the country.

Heart Disease and the Environment

Did you know that your environment can affect your risk for a heart attack? Scientists in the United States and abroad have shown relationships between short- and long- term exposure to particulate air pollution and the increased risk of heart attack and other forms of ischemic heart disease (also known as coronary artery disease or coronary heart disease).
The level of environmental risk for heart attacks depends on several factors:

  • the amount of pollution in the air,
  • a person’s exposure to the air pollution, and
  • a person’s overall health.
Hands in red mittens making a heart shape while snowing outside

Limit Your Risks

Here are a few ways you can limit your environmental risks.

  • Use the Air Quality IndexExternal to know when air pollution may be bad in your area.
  • Plan activities when and where pollution levels are lower, usually in the morning and evening.
  • Adjust activity level based on the Air Quality IndexExternal.
  • Exercise away from road and highways where pollution is usually worse.
  • Do easier outdoor activities if possible. If you have to do heavy activities outdoors, go slowly.

Cold weather puts an extra strain on the heart. If you have heart disease or high blood pressure, follow your doctor’s advice about shoveling snow or performing other hard work in the cold. Otherwise, if you have to do heavy outdoor chores, dress warmly and work slowly. Remember, your body is already working hard just to stay warm, so don’t overdo it.

Heart Disease

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women.

A heart attack, or acute myocardial infarction, happens when the blood supply to part of the heart muscle is severely reduced or stopped. The loss of blood or oxygen causes damage and potential death of heart tissue.

Ischemic heart disease, also called coronary artery disease or coronary heart disease, is the main cause of heart attack.

Learn more about heart disease.

Tracking Heart Disease

Currently, the United States does not have a single surveillance system for either heart attacks or general ischemic heart disease. CDC’s National Environmental Public Health Tracking Network (Tracking Network) brings together national death data and data on heart attack-related hospital visits into one online resource to help provide a more complete understanding of heart disease across the country.

Heart disease data on the Tracking Network include the following:

  • Hospitalizations for heart attack
  • Heart attack deaths
  • Ischemic heart disease deaths

Tracking heart disease helps public health professionals

  • examine trends over time;
  • identify any seasonal patterns;
  • assess geographic differences;
  • evaluate differences in heart disease by age, gender, and race/ethnicity; and
  • determine populations in need of targeted interventions.

Visit the Tracking Network today to view heart disease data and learn more about the connections between our health and the environment.

More Information

Data map of heart disease in kentucy for graphics purposes.

An example of heart attack hospitalization data on the Tracking Network featuring Kentucky (2016). Click the image to view the complete query.

Page last reviewed: February 6, 2019