Founded in 1924, the American Heart Association was formed as a medical society to share knowledge about heart disease. In 1948, the association was reorganized into a voluntary health organization whose mission is to reduce disability and death from cardiovascular disease and stroke.
With headquarters in Dallas, Texas, there are fifteen regional American Heart Association affiliates and more than 3,000 full-time and part-time staff. More than 22.5 million volunteers and supporters carry out the association's mission in communities across the country. A volunteer board of directors, with members from science, medicine, business, and industry, governs the association.
In 2000 a budget of about $337 million supported research, public and professional education, community programs, and advocacy. Research funded by the association has contributed significantly to CPR training, bypass surgery, pacemakers, artificial heart valves, microsurgery, and life-extending drugs. Education messages emphasize quitting smoking; controlling blood pressure; eating a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet; being physically active; and maintaining a healthy weight.
A major goal of the American Heart Association is to reduce coronary heart disease and stroke (and the risk factors for these conditions) by 25 percent by the year 2010. To achieve this goal, the association is partnering with emergency medical and hospital systems in communities to implement two new health initiatives: Operation Heartbeat and Operation Stroke. These initiatives will raise awareness about heart disease and stroke warning signs and the need to act urgently when such signs occur.
In November 1998, the association created a division called the American Stroke Association. Its goal is to support stroke-education programs, stroke-related research, and stroke survivors and their caregivers.