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What Is The Heart Truth?

Every woman needs to know about heart disease.

The Heart Truth is that heart disease is the #1 killer of American women.  In fact, one in four women dies of heart disease.  But heart disease can also lead to disability and a significantly decreased quality of life.

Unfortunately, most women don't know The Heart Truth.  Although significant progress has been made increasing awareness among women—from 34 percent in 2000 to 57 percent in 2006—most women fail to make the connection between risk factors and their personal risk of developing heart disease.

The Heart Truth is that women don't take their risk of heart disease seriously—or personally.  Women often fail to make the connection between risk factors, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol, and their own chance of developing heart disease.

 Leading Causes of Death for American Women (2004): Heart Disease 332,000; Stroke 91,000; Lung Cancer 68,000; Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease 64,000; Breast Cancer 41,000
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The centerpiece of The Heart Truth is the Red Dress, which was introduced as the national symbol for women and heart disease awareness in 2002 by NHLBI.  The Red Dress reminds women of the need to protect their heart health, and inspires them to take action.

Goal of the Campaign

To make women more aware of the danger of heart disease, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) and partner organizations are sponsoring a national campaign called The Heart Truth.  The campaign's goal is to give women a personal and urgent wakeup call about their risk of heart disease.

Who Are We Trying to Reach?

The campaign is especially aimed at women ages 40 to 60, the time when a woman's risk of heart disease starts to rise.  But its messages are also important for younger women, since heart disease develops gradually and can start at a young age—even in the teenage years.  Older women have an interest too—it's never too late to take action to prevent and control the risk factors for heart disease.  Even those who have heart disease can improve their heart health and quality of life.  

Heart disease disproportionately affects women of color.  African American and Hispanic women in particular have high rates of the major risk factors for heart disease, including obesity, physical inactivity, high blood pressure, and diabetes.  The Heart Truth Women of Color initiative, with its partners, focuses on extending The Heart Truth messages, and engaging in national and local activities to help more women of color understand The Heart Truth—and inspire them to take action to reduce their risks for heart disease.  
Women of Color >

Photo of Joan & Bonnie

The campaign tells women that "The Heart Truth starts with you.  Talk to your doctor, find out your risk, and take action today to lower it."  Its messages are underscored by the moving stories of real women who are living with heart disease.  Sharon, Orlinda, Olga, and others have allowed the campaign to tell The Heart Truth through their faces, voices, and experiences in hopes that their Stories From The Heart will help other women take heart health seriously.


  • Getting the Message:  Heart Disease is the #1 Killer of Women
    A 2006 survey from the American Heart Association shows that more women are getting the message that heart disease is the #1 killer of women.  According to the survey, 57 percent of American women know that heart disease is their leading killer, up from 34 percent in 2000 and 46 percent in 2003.  Although awareness has increased among African American and Hispanic women, these groups—who are at higher risk of heart disease than white women—continue to have lower rates of awareness.

  • Red Dress Gaining Momentum:  Awareness of the National Symbol for Women and Heart Disease on the Rise
    A 2007 national poll sponsored by Johnson & Johnson and affiliated companies, in conjunction with NHLBI, shows that less than five years after NHLBI launched The Heart Truth campaign and its Red Dress, 57 percent of U.S. adult women recognize the Red Dress as the national symbol for women and heart disease awareness, up from consumer awareness surveys conducted in 2006 and 2005 revealing 39 percent and 25 percent, respectively.

  • Survey Shows Few Women Acknowledge Their Personal Risk for Heart Disease
    A 2006 survey conducted by Lifetime Television, in conjunction with NHLBI, found that while an increasing number of women are aware that heart disease is their #1 killer, many still do not acknowledge their personal risk and most feel that dialogue is lacking between them and their health care providers on the topic.

  • Survey Shows What Diseases Women Fear Most
    In a survey commissioned by the Society for Women's Health Research, data shows that women's fear of heart disease has almost doubled since 2002, but breast cancer remains the single most feared disease.

  • Survey Shows Women are Disappearing into a Cholesterol Gap
    A survey of 2,700 women sponsored by the Preventive Cardiovascular Nurses Association found that over 80 percent of respondents did not know their cholesterol numbers.  Survey findings identified a need for further education about all relevant cholesterol factors that contribute to heart disease.


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What Is The Heart Truth?
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