February is American Heart Health month, and we here at ABC News are, well, taking it to heart. That's why all this month we'll be featuring stories and hosting events that highlight many different aspects of heart health and heart disease prevention and treatment.
With more than 2 million heart attacks and strokes each year, and 800,000 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. One out of every three deaths is from heart disease and stroke.
These conditions are also the leading causes of disability, and they're costing this country a fortune -- together, heart disease and stroke hospitalizations in 2010 rang up $444 billion in health care expenses and lost productivity, according to the CDC.
It's the rare American who hasn't been touched by heart disease in some way. Just about all of us have known someone who has had cardiovascular illness, a heart attack or stroke. Heart problems can strike older folks, middle-agers, high schoolers, children -- even babies. No ethnicity is immune. And, as today's slide show on celebrities with heart problems should show, heart disease strikes people from all walks of life, famous or not.
But we can fight back against this scourge. Awareness is key. Later this month, ABC's chief health and medical correspondent, Dr. Richard Besser, will explain how to spot the signs of a heart attack. Look, too, for information on how women's heart attack symptoms can differ from men's, the symptoms you should never ignore and why heart disease may be the biggest health risk you ever face.
Many of our stories focus on prevention. You'll learn about how eating the right foods can slash your chances of developing heart disease and how exercise, sleep and other lifestyle factors can affect your risk. Did you know you can actually die of a broken heart? Or that strong personal relationships can protect your heart?
We'll bring you personal stories about people who are fighting heart disease, such as high school athletes who have found themselves sidelined because of heart anomalies uncovered during routine physical exams. You'll meet a girl who was born with her heart outside her body, and individuals who have undergone extreme lifestyle makeovers to keep their tickers going strong.
Tying our coverage together, Besser will hold a tweet chat on heart health on Tuesday, Feb. 12, from 1-2 p.m. ET. He'll be joined by experts from the American Heart Association, the Mayo Clinic and the Harvard Medical School's Happy Heart study research team. We'll be announcing more special guests as the month progresses.
We encourage you to join the conversation. You'll get advice on how to manage your family's heart health and share your story. Participation is easy -- you don't need to be a Twitter expert! Click here for details. In case you miss it, we'll post a full transcript of the chat in a follow-up blog later in the day.