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What We Don't Know About Heart Disease Can Kill Us

Are we being optimists or ostriches?
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Heart disease is the number one killer of people worldwide, so you'd think that we'd be up to speed on the risks. Evidently not, based on a poll of people in the United Kingdom.

Are you smarter than a Brit when it comes to risk factors? Take our quickie quiz and find out:

So are you smarter than a Brit? Here's how the 2,000 people polled by the British Heart Foundation fared:

  • Ninety percent wrongly believe that high blood pressure comes with symptoms. Alas, no.
  • One-third of people don't realize that smoking doubles the risk of having a stroke or heart attack.
  • Half of Brits said there's no link between diabetes and heart disease. In fact, people with diabetes are twice as likely to develop heart disease, and often at a younger age.
  • And maybe you don't want to worry, but cardiovascular disease is much more likely to kill you than cancer, HIV or Ebola. Heart attacks and stroke are the number one and number two causes of death, according to the World Health Organization, accounting for 14 million deaths each year.
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We Americans may be a bit more up to speed than our colleagues across the pond, according to surveys by the American Heart Association. A 2013 poll found that 23 percent of Americans consider themselves at risk for heart disease, and 14 percent think it's the greatest health problem facing Americans, behind obesity and cancer.

Even better, the vast majority of people know they should be exercising more, lowering blood pressure, reducing cholesterol levels and dropping the cigs to reduce their risk.

Still, 43 percent of Americans think their heart health is ideal, according to the heart association poll, even though 8 percent of those folks have been diagnosed with a heart condition, and two-thirds have at least one health issue that puts them at risk.

And even though we know how to reduce risk, we aren't stepping up our efforts to have a healthy heart.

You can put me in the lazy optimist camp. Maybe it's time for me to stop typing and head out for a walk.