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The #1 Way You're Likely to Die, According to Science

Heart disease takes the lines of 1 in 4 Americans.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

The leading causes of death in the United States are a rogue's gallery of maladies—cancer, Alzheimer's, diabetes, last year, COVID-19. But one tops the list. It's heart disease, which was responsible for 23.1 percent of total deaths, or 1 in 4 people. That's 635,260 souls a year. The tragedy is, in many of these cases, the death could have been prevented. What causes heart disease and how can you avoid it, changing your destiny? Read on for 5 quick key takeaways that could save your life, according to science—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You Have "Long" COVID and Don't Know It.


What is Heart Disease and Why Should You Care?

Doctor points on a human heart model

Think of your heart as the engine that powers your body. This engine has vessels called arteries that help blood flow in and out of it. When these arteries become clogged by a substance called plaque, the flow is slowed or blocked entirely. The heart, as a result, stops. Alternately, the plaque can rupture, leading to blood clots. There are other ways your heart could be taxed, too—extra weight, for example, can put pressure on your heart and vessels. Keep reading to see who is most likely to develop heart disease, and how to ensure it doesn't happen to you.


Who is Most Likely to Die of Heart Disease?

Obese man measuring his waist.

Men, smokers, those overweight or obese, anyone with a family history of heart diseas and folks over 55 are the most likely to die from heart disease. You cannot change your family history, nor your age or gender. You can, however, stop smoking, and if you're overweight or obese, there are proven ways to take their weight off, ways that can also bolster your heart health. A diet low in bad fats and high in protein, fiber and good fats can lead to less plaque buildup, and thus a strong heart. In the next slide, you'll learn how to take control of your heart health.

RELATED: The #1 Cause of Heart Attack, According to Science


How to Take Control of Your Heart Health

Happy woman eating healthy salad sitting on the table with green fresh ingredients indoors

To take control of your heart health, choose healthy foods (no saturated or trans fats, limit salt and sugar) and drinks, keep a healthy weight, get regular physical activity and don't smoke. You'll also want to check your cholesterol, manage any diabetes and work with your heart health team. 

Controlling your blood pressure is also key. "Blood pressure measures the force of blood pushing against the walls of the arteries. If your blood pressure stays high for a long time, you may suffer from high blood pressure (also called hypertension)," says the CDC. "High blood pressure increases your risk for heart attack or stroke more than any other risk factor." Ask your doctor what your blood pressure numbers are, and what needs to be done to get them in line. In our final slide, see what the signs of heart disease are.


Signs of Heart Disease

Man With Heart Attack

When it comes to heart health, time is of the essence. Start healthy habits now and you can add years to your life. It's also a game of minutes. If you feel any warning signs of heart disease, like the following, contact a medical professional immediately:

  • Fluttering in your chest
  • Racing or slow heartbeat
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Shortness of breath
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness

Those are all signs your heart could be failing. If you experience any, contact a doctor. And to protect your health, don't miss these Signs You're Getting One of the "Most Deadly" Cancers.

Alek Korab
Alek Korab is a Co-Founder and Managing Editor of the ETNT Health channel on Eat This, Not That! Read more about Alek