Sorry to be the one to break the news, but aging is relentless. Rain or shine, good times and bad, we all get older. And while heart disease knows no boundaries - young and old, male or female can develop it - certainly your risk is increased as you age. Getting older in and of itself is not the cause; in many cases it is due to years of bad habits like smoking, poor nutrition and limited exercise. But the statistics don't lie. The American Heart Association reports that more than 83 percent of people who die of coronary heart disease are 65 or older. And older women who have heart attacks are more likely than men are to die within a few weeks of having one.

Heart disease is our No. 1 killer. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every year about 785,000 Americans have a first heart attack. Another 470,000 who have already had one or more heart attacks have another attack. As you get older, it's important to have regular check ups, live a heart-healthy lifestyle and understand the warning signs.

Early Detection & Symptoms You Should Know

A CDC survey revealed that 92 percent of respondents recognized chest pain as a symptom of a heart attack. But only 27 percent were aware of all major symptoms and knew to call 911 when someone was having a heart attack. Fact is, about 47 percent of sudden cardiac deaths occur outside a hospital, which leads one to believe that many people with heart disease don't know or act on early warning signs. In general, those signs are chest discomfort; shortness of breath; discomfort or pain in the upper body; cold sweats, nausea or light-headedness. Any of these signs should be taken seriously and you should go to the hospital.

Are You at Risk? Know the Contributors

Here's a look at the percentage of U.S. adults with heart disease risk factors in 2006:

  • Inactivity: 40 percent
  • Obesity: 34 percent
  • High blood pressure: 31 percent
  • Cigarette smoking: 21 percent
  • High cholesterol: 16 percent
  • Diabetes: 10 percent
Source: CDC


Heart-Health Timelines: Test Your Ticker