Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women of most ethnic groups in the U.S.
Nearly half of all sudden cardiac deaths occur outside a hospital, suggesting people don't act on the early warning signs, which can include pain or discomfort in the chest, one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach, shortness of breath, breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or light-headedness.
In a study of men and women at age 50, those with optimal risk factors (non-smoker, absence of diabetes, blood pressure below 120/80 and total cholesterol below 180) had a median life expectancy of 10 or more years beyond those with two risk factors.
The incidence of diabetes has doubled over the past 30 years, with type 2 diabetes accounting for most cases. At least 65 percent of people with diabetes die of some form of heart disease or stroke.
About 69 percent of people who have a first heart attack, 77 percent who have a first stroke and 74 percent with congestive heart failure have blood pressure higher than 140/90.
As of June 2009, there were 2,791 people in the U.S. waiting for a heart transplant.