News Release

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Heart Disease Deaths in American Women Decline

17,000 fewer women died of heart disease; awareness continues to climb.

New York — The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of the National Institutes of Health announced today that the number of heart disease deaths in American women is decreasing. Newly analyzed data shows that the number of women who die from heart disease has shifted from 1 in 3 women to 1 in 4 — a decrease of nearly 17,000 deaths from 2003 to 2004.

"The good news announced today shows that The Heart Truth awareness campaign is helping," said Mrs. Laura Bush. "When I first heard that heart disease is the number one killer of women, I was surprised. I joined The Heart Truth — and its national Red Dress project - to raise women's awareness and fight back against heart disease. By learning about heart disease, and taking action to reduce risk factors, women can save their own lives."

“Today, on National Wear Red Day, we have much to celebrate with the release of this data. It is very good news indeed,” said Elizabeth G. Nabel, M.D., director of NHLBI. “To see such a significant reduction in deaths underscores that the efforts of many individuals and organizations to raise awareness, improve treatment and access, and inspire women to take action are truly saving lives.”

NHLBI experts analyzed preliminary data for 2004, the most recent year for which data are available. This analysis showed that the last few years in particular have seen a steady decline in the number of heart disease deaths in women — deaths have gone down in each of the five years from 2000 to 2004, a consecutive yearly decline which has not occurred before. Furthermore, in 2004, life expectancy at birth reached an all-time high for women: 80.4 years. “The steady decline in heart disease mortality has certainly contributed to this trend,” said Dr. Nabel.

Additionally, significant progress has been made in increasing awareness among women that heart disease is their leading killer — up from 34 percent in 2000 to 55 percent in 2005. “We are confident that recent advancements in the women and heart disease movement have helped to propel this change,” said Dr. Nabel. “More women are aware that heart disease is their leading killer, and research shows that this heightened awareness is leading them to take action to reduce their risk. They are more likely to step up their physical activity, eat healthier, and lose weight.”

Despite this progress, challenges remain. Heart disease continues to be the leading killer of women, yet many women still do not take heart disease seriously or personally, and millions have one or more of the risk factors which can dramatically increase their risk of developing the condition. And, by just about any measure — from awareness of risks, to prevalence of risk factors, to numbers of deaths — heart disease remains more serious among women of color. “Our goal continues to be achieving even greater awareness and contributing to the trend of steady decline in deaths,” said Dr. Nabel.

In New York today, NHLBI, through The Heart Truth campaign, continues its awareness efforts by returning to New York Fashion Week for the fifth year with its signature platform — the Red Dress Collection Fashion Show. NHLBI’s introduction of The Heart Truth’s Red Dress as the national symbol for women and heart disease awareness in 2002 sparked a national movement that has united partners to promote the common goal of a greater awareness of heart disease and better heart health for all women. The Red Dress is fast becoming one of the most recognizable health symbols in the United States.

In a 2007 survey commissioned by Johnson & Johnson on behalf of The Heart Truth, 57 percent of U.S. women recognized the Red Dress as the national symbol for women and heart disease, up from 39 percent awareness in 2006 and 25 percent in 2005.

Walking in this year’s Fashion Show — presented by Johnson & Johnson and affiliated companies, with national sponsors Celestial Seasonings and Swarovski, and media partner Lifetime — are “Celebrated Women” including: Angela Bassett, Betsey Johnson, Billie Jean King, Camilla Belle, Danica Patrick, Katharine McPhee, Kelly Ripa, Kim Cattrall, Kimberly Guilfoyle, Kristin Chenoweth, Lauren Hutton, Mae Jamison, Natalie Morales, Paula Zahn, Phylicia Rashad, Rachael Ray, and Sheila Johnson. The Red Dress Collection 2007 Fashion Show will be presented at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week today at 11:00 a.m. featuring red dresses created exclusively for The Heart Truth to remind women of their #1 health threat.

Participating designers in the 2007 Collection include: Alia Khan, Alidio Michelli, Betsey Johnson, Bill Blass, Bob Mackie, Calvin Klein, Carmen Marc Valvo, Carolina Herrera, Daniel Swarovski, Diane von Furstenberg, Donna Karan, Douglas Hannant, Ellen Tracy, Gustavo Cadile, Jovovich-Hawk, Kenneth Cole, Lyn Devon, Max Azria Atelier, Michael Kors, Narciso Rodriguez, Nicole Miller, Oscar de la Renta, Rebecca Taylor, Tracy Reese, and Zac Posen.

The Heart Truth aims to spread the word that heart disease is largely preventable. In fact, just by leading a healthy lifestyle — such as following a heart healthy eating plan, getting regular physical activity, maintaining a healthy weight, and not smoking — Americans can lower their risk of heart disease by as much as 82 percent.

Some risk factors, such as age (55 or older for women) and a family history of early heart disease, can’t be changed. Women can, however, control certain risk factors, such as high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, being overweight or obese, and being physically inactive. Eighty percent of midlife women (ages 40 to 60) have one or more of these risk factors. Having even one risk factor doubles a woman’s chance of developing heart disease, and having three or more risk factors increases the risk tenfold.

About The Heart Truth and the Johnson & Johnson Survey

The Harris Interactive survey commissioned by Johnson & Johnson and affiliated companies on behalf of The Heart Truth, was conducted by telephone within the United States between January 18 and January 21, 2007 among 1,015 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, geographic region, and race were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. With a pure probability sample of 1,015 one could say with a ninety-five percent probability that the overall results would have a sampling error of +/- three percentage points. Sampling error for the sub-samples of men (n= 505) and women (n= 510) would be higher and would vary. However that does not take other sources of error into account.

The Heart Truth partners include: The Office on Women's Health, Department of Health and Human Services; the American Heart Association; WomenHeart: the National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease, and other organizations committed to the health and well-being of women. To learn more, visit

For additional information, visit For downloadable images and photography, please visit or or email your inquiry to

For feed information or hard copy requests, please contact Rebecca Reissman at News Broadcast Network at (800) 920-6397 x211.

Friday, Feb. 2, 2007
7:30-7:45 PM (ET)

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Saturday, Feb. 3, 2007 3:30-4:00 PM (ET)
C-Band: Galaxy 25 (formerly IA5)
Transponder 13
Downlink Frequency 3960
Standard Audio: 6.2 & 6.8

Monday, Feb. 5, 2007 1:30-1:45 PM (ET)
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Please Note: Participants in The Heart Truth’s Red Dress Collection 2007 Fashion Show were confirmed at time of release and are subject to change.

Part of the National Institutes of Health, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) plans, conducts, and supports research related to the causes, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of heart, blood vessel, lung, and blood diseases; and sleep disorders. The Institute also administers national health education campaigns on women and heart disease, healthy weight for children, and other topics. NHLBI press releases and other materials are available online at

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit

NIH…Turning Discovery Into Health®