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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release February 1, 1997




More than 700,000 men and women die each year of heart disease, making it the leading cause of death in our country. Annually, about 1.5 million Americans suffer heart attacks, one-third of which are fatal. Collectively, diseases of the heart and blood vessels claim about 960,000 American lives annually. These statistics only hint at the individual and collective tragedy brought on by heart disease and stroke and underscore the need for us to do everything possible to combat cardiovascular diseases.

Research has brought dramatic improvements to our knowledge of heart disease and how to combat it. We have learned much in recent years and now know that the processes leading to heart disease typically begin early in life and worsen over the years; symptoms often do not appear for decades. We also better understand the effects of genetics, gender, and lifestyle. High blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, smoking, diabetes, and obesity increase the risk of developing heart disease; physical activity can reduce the risk of suffering from cardiovascular disease, including stroke.

Additionally, research has brought improved diagnostic methods and treatments for those afflicted with heart disease. Noninvasive imaging devices can now show the heart at work inside the body, giving doctors more precise information about their patient's condition. And new tests and therapies allow us to detect and treat a heart attack more effectively and minimize damage to the heart muscle.

These striking developments in biomedical techniques and increased public awareness and education have helped reduce the death rate from heart disease by nearly 60 percent in the past 30 years, and deaths from stroke by about 65 percent.

The Federal Government has contributed to these advances by supporting research and public education programs of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health. The American Heart Association also has played a crucial role in bringing about these remarkable accomplishments through its research and education programs and the work of dedicated volunteers.

Yet much remains to be done. The incidence of obesity has risen dramatically over the past 30 years, and renewed efforts are needed to make all Americans aware of how they can lower the risks of heart disease by adopting a commonsense regimen of diet, exercise, and, in some cases, medication.

More, too, must be done to help survivors of initial heart attacks live full lives. Within six years of a heart attack, for instance, more than a third of those afflicted develop severe and often disabling chest pain. One-fourth or more of them will have another heart attack, and another fifth suffer heart failure. The challenges posed by heart disease are becoming ever more pressing as America ages and more of us live beyond age 65 -- the group most affected by this disease.

In the face of these daunting challenges, we Americans, acting individually and collectively, can fight heart disease and give ourselves and our families a healthy future.

In recognition of these important needs in the ongoing battle against cardiovascular disease, the Congress, by Joint Resolution approved December 30, 1963 (77 Stat. 843; 36 U.S.C. 169b), has requested that the President issue an annual proclamation designating February as "American Heart Month."

NOW, THEREFORE, I, WILLIAM J. CLINTON, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim February 1997, as American Heart Month. I invite the Governors of the States, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, officials of other areas subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, and the American people to join me in reaffirming our commitment to combating cardiovascular disease and stroke.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this first day of February, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and ninety-seven, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and twenty-first.


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