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Preventing Heart Disease

Social media graphic on heart disease prevention with logos showing ways to prevent heart disease – a scale, exercise, not smoking and eating  healthy diet.

Heart disease is responsible for about 600,000 deaths in the United States every year – that’s 1 in every 4 deaths, the most common cause of death before the COVID-19 pandemic. Lowering your risk factors for heart disease is critical to your health, and will help Service Members improve their readiness and mission performance.

Messages for Communicators

  • Knowing the risk factors, warning signs, and symptoms of heart disease is key to avoiding serious health complications, including death, but many people don’t know the signs.
    • High blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol, and smoking are key risk factors for heart disease.
    • Just under half of Americans (47%) have at least one of these three risk factors.
    • Warning signs of heart disease include fatigue, chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, among other symptoms.
  • There are strong indications that heart disease is more common in service members and veterans.
    • Stress, smoking, post-traumatic stress, and hypertension are known risk factors for heart disease, and are more common in members of the military than the general population.
  • The four most common symptoms of heart attacks are chest pain or discomfort; upper body pain or discomfort in the arms, back, neck, jaw, or upper stomach; shortness of breath; nausea, lightheadedness, or cold sweats.
  • There are well understood ways of minimizing the risk and impacts of heart disease.
    • Eat a balanced, healthy diet, low in sodium, cholesterol, and saturated fat (the Mediterranean diet is considered an excellent model)
    • Get at least 2.5 hours a week of physical activity
    • Get seven to eight hours of sleep
    • Manage stress
    • Don’t use tobacco and keep alcohol consumption low.


Fact 1: One person dies every 36 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease. Physical exercise, proper diet and not smoking or drinking are the clearest path to lowering your risk of heart disease.

American Heart Health Month Healthy Heart for Body and Mind Fact 2: Preventing or minimizing chronic illness like heart disease is critical to military readiness. Service Members are not immune to the health problems that affect the U.S. population generally. Some risk factors for heart disease, like binge drinking and smoking, are actually more common amongst Service Members.

American Heart Health Month Healthy Heart for Body and Mind Fact 3: Just 2.5 hours a week of moderate physical exercise is enough to lower your risk of heart disease. Limiting saturated and trans fats, sodium, and cholesterol, and eating more fresh fruits and vegetables also keep your risk low.

Healthy Heart for Body & Soul

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