The attempt to save 1 million hearts in the U.S.

Hows your heart? Heres your chance to be 1 in a million.

February is American Heart Month, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in collaboration with government and public partners, is announcing the Million Hearts initiative to prevent a million heart attacks and strokes during the next five years.

There continues to be an epidemic of heart disease. The statistics are staggering. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States.

Heart disease affects 1 in 3 Americans. More than 2 million heart attacks and strokes occur each year in the U.S. Combined costs from health-care expenses and lost productivity is estimated at about $400 billion annually.

The Million Hearts campaign seeks to raise awareness about this costly and dangerous disease. It is hoped that improved awareness about effective prevention strategies will head off more than a million heart attacks or strokes by 2017. Pay close attention. You might be one in a million.

Risk factors for heart disease include genetic factors, age and ethnicity; co-existing diseases such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure; and lifestyle factors such as smoking, inactivity and an unhealthy diet. Heart disease affects both genders, and is the leading cause of death in both men and women.

Many risk factors for heart disease, such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure, often have no symptoms. Regular screening is essential.

Most risk factors for heart disease are preventable and controllable.

It is estimated that control of risk factors such as smoking, obesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol could reduce the risk of stroke and heart attack by as much as 80 percent. Almost half of all U.S. adults have at least one heart disease risk factor.

Prevention of heart disease begins with a healthy lifestyle. The single most important thing a smoker can do to reduce heart attack risk is to stop smoking.

Also of great importance is weight management and regular physical activity. Adults should try to get 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise most days of the week.

A heart-healthy diet is a cornerstone of heart-disease prevention. The goal should be to reduce sodium, cholesterol and saturated-fat intake, and to trade processed foods for fruits and vegetables.

Similar to rates of heart disease, 1 in 3 Americans has elevated blood pressure and/or high cholesterol. Control of these conditions through lifestyle measures and medication substantially reduces heart attack risk.

Yet many people with these conditions dont know it because there may be no symptoms. Regular screening either with your doctor or at a local health fair can catch these problems and allow treatment before heart disease strikes.

Finally, for those with certain high-risk conditions such as known cardiovascular disease or diabetes, daily aspirin therapy may help protect against heart attack and stroke. If you think you might be at risk, talk to your doctor before starting medication.

Dr. Matthew A. Clark is a board-certified physician in internal medicine and pediatrics practicing at the Ute Mountain Health Center in Towaoc.