Million Hearts Campaign: the Cost and Causes of Heart Disease

Heart disease is the number one cause of death here in the U.S., with 1 in 3 Americans developing the disease in their lifetime and over 2 million Americans suffering from a heart attack or stroke each year. While some people’s first “wake-up call” on their heart health ranges from a mild or fatal heart attack, most people’s heart health begins deteriorating years before such an event. The most common attributing factors to heart disease are a diet high in fat and sugar and low in nutrients, smoking, lack of exercise, obesity and stress. Some or all of these factors overtime clog and harden people’s arteries, increase people’s cholesterol, cause weight gain and generally wear people’s health – their bodies, minds and spirits – down.

Heart disease costs our country over $444 billion per year in health care costs and loss of economic productivity. It also amounts to 2,200 deaths per day, or 815,000 American lives each year. In addition to the fatalities, heart disease can also result in serious illness, disability, and decreased quality of life. Suffering a stroke may lead to significant disability, such as paralysis, speech difficulties, and emotional problems. Following a heart attack, many people experience fatigue and depression, and find it more difficult to engage in physical activities. Heart disease and stroke are among the leading causes of disability in the United States, with more than 3 million people reporting disability from these causes.

For all the deaths, disability, decreased quality of life and high costs attributed to heart disease, last fall the federal government formed a collaborative partnership and launched a national initiative with communities, health systems, nonprofit organizations, federal agencies, and private-sector partners from across the country to fight heart disease and stroke. The initiative, called Million Hearts™ aims to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes over five years.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) plays a major role in promoting this campaign and also educates Medicare beneficiaries on some of Medicare’s new and existing preventive benefits that aim to reduce hearth disease. These include:

See Medicare Preventive benefits for a full list of all covered preventive services.

Prevention is one of the best medicines for individual, community and national health. While following the ABCS (appropriate aspirin therapy, blood pressure control, cholesterol management, and smoking cessation) promoted in the Million Hearts™ initiative are helpful guidelines for heart disease prevention, some medical professionals offer more radical, yet natural approaches to reverse heart disease without drugs. Dr. Joel Fuhrman, author of Eat to Live,  discusses the science, safety and effectiveness of eating a radically nutrient dense diet for reversing heart disease, diabetes and obesity. It’s a simple, natural, drug-free and low-cost approach to reversing disease and enjoying life-long health and vitality. Read the article, Heart Disease: reversing heart disease without surgery and more effectively than with drugs, for more information.


Karen Joy Fletcher

Our blogger Karen Joy Fletcher is CHA’s Communications Director. With a Masters in Public Health from UC Berkeley, she is the online “public face” of the organization, provides technical expertise, writing and research on Medicare and other health care issues. She is responsible for digital content creation, management of CHA’s editorial calendar, and managing all aspects of CHA’s social media presence. She loves being a “communicator” and enjoys networking and collaborating with the passionate people and agencies in the health advocacy field. See her current articles.