New York State Department of Health Recognizes February As American Heart Month

Heart Disease Remains Leading Cause of Death in New York

Adopting Healthy Habits can Reduce Risk of Heart Disease

Recent Report Details Prevalence of Heart Disease in NYS

ALBANY, N.Y. (February 6, 2024) The New York State Department of Health is recognizing February as American Heart Month and encourages New Yorkers to take important steps to help prevent heart disease that can lead to a heart attack or stroke. Cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death in New York State, and socioeconomic inequities are strong predictors of cardiovascular risk.

"There are healthy habits that can prevent heart disease and a potentially fatal heart attack, like eating nutritious food, engaging in regular physical activity, and following the advice of a health care provider," State Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald said. "The State Health Department remains committed to eliminating health disparities and removing barriers to health care so fewer New Yorkers suffer from heart disease."

According to the key findings in the Department's latest Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) survey report, an estimated 1,118,000 adults (7.4 percent) in New York State reported they have had a heart attack, angina/coronary heart disease, or stroke.

High blood pressure is one of the leading preventable risk factors for heart disease and stroke, which are the first and sixth leading causes of death in New York State. A recent data report indicated that an estimated 4.9 million New Yorkers reported being told by a health professional that they have high blood pressure. The burden of high blood pressure is not evenly carried by all New Yorkers. It is significantly more common among Black, non-Hispanic adults (37.3 percent) compared to White, non-Hispanic adults (32.4 percent), and Hispanic adults (25.4 percent).

For New Yorkers who have high blood pressure and have experienced inequities in income, access to healthy foods, employment, or educational opportunities, it can be a challenge to prioritize controlling high blood pressure. The New York State Department of Health is working with the Community Health Center Association of New York State on an initiative to improve hypertension control by supporting Federally Qualified Health Centers in screening New Yorkers for food insecurity, homelessness, and other social determinants of health risk factors and making referrals to social support agencies in their communities.

These positive lifestyle changes can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease:

  • Improve nutrition by choosing healthy foods and snacks with less salt and sodium.
  • Engage in regular physical activity. The U.S. Surgeon General recommends two and a half hours of moderate intensity exercise each week for adults and one hour of physical activity each day for children and adolescents. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has additional information here.
  • Make lifestyle changes to include healthy foods to help maintain a healthy weight or prevent weight gain. Even modest weight loss can provide health benefits. American Heart Association tips for embracing a healthy lifestyle can be found here.
  • While managing chronic health conditions such as high blood pressure, prediabetes, and diabetes, follow physician's instructions, including taking medications as directed. 
  • Those who smoke can contact the NYS Smokers' Quitline for help in quitting.
  • Those who drink alcohol should do so in moderation.

To learn more about heart disease and how to prevent it, visit the Department's Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention website here.