During American Heart Month, we focus on making our hearts healthier and stronger. Heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death for both men and women, so it is of particular importance to educate yourself and those you love on heart health.

Here are some key facts to know about heart disease from the Centers for Disease Control:

  • About 697,000 people in the United States die from heart disease each year, which translates to one in four deaths.
  • Nearly 805,000 Americans will have a heart attack this year; that's one every 40 seconds.
  • The financial burden of heart disease in the United States is about $363 billion each year.

Below, we've put together a list of five of the best heart-health charities. (You can check Charity Navigator for a more complete list of researched and rated organizations.)

  • American Heart Association: The AHA is probably the most vocal educator on the topic of heart disease. It is a voluntary health agency with a mission to “build healthier lives, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke.” Its leaders have a track record of being very transparent about how they spend their money, so you know where your donation is going. If you check their website, you can see how financial support is divided, as well as the kinds of outreach and research they’re doing. And, with their Go Red campaign, the AHA has been instrumental in advocating heart health for women and educating the population on just how big a killer heart disease is among women. (4-star ranking on Charity Navigator)
  • Rockefeller University: More than a hundred years ago, John D. Rockefeller founded Rockefeller University, which is now a world-renowned center for research and education in biomedical science and other disciplines. The university has more than 70 laboratories that conduct both clinical and basic research with the mission to improve “the understanding of life for the benefit of humanity.” The university’s unique relationship with Rockefeller Hospital has linked laboratory research with bedside observation and aided in such discoveries as the confirmation of the connections between cholesterol and heart disease, and an obesity gene and the weight-regulating hormone leptin. Currently, they have clinical studies under way on heart disease and stroke, along with obesity, nutrition, weight loss and many others. (Not rated on Charity Navigator, which doesn't rate tuition-based institutions.)
  • WomenHeart: This group touts itself as “the only national organization dedicated to promoting women’s heart health through advocacy, education and patient support.” The 44 million American women who live with or are at risk of heart disease can get equal access to quality care, and WomenHeart provides women with information and resources to help them take charge of their own heart health. (2-star ranking on Charity Navigator)
  • National Stroke Association: This group provides “education, services and community-based activities in prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and recovery. Organization representatives serve everyone affected by stroke in the U.S., including those at risk, patients, health care providers, stroke survivors, as well as their families and caregivers. This organization gives Americans life-saving tools to prevent stroke. (Not rated on Charity Navigator)

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