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Before the American Heart Association existed, people with heart disease were thought to be doomed to complete bed rest — or destined to imminent death.

But a handful of pioneering physicians and social workers believed it didn’t have to be that way. They conducted studies to learn more about heart disease, America’s No. 1 killer. Then, on June 10, 1924, they met in Chicago to form the American Heart Association — believing that scientific research could lead the way to better treatment, prevention and ultimately a cure. The early American Heart Association enlisted help from hundreds, then thousands, of physicians and scientists.

“We were living in a time of almost unbelievable ignorance about heart disease,” said Paul Dudley White, one of six cardiologists who founded the organization.

In 1948, the association reorganized, transforming from a professional scientific society to a nationwide voluntary health organization composed of science and lay volunteers and supported by professional staff.

Since then, the AHA has grown rapidly in size and influence — nationally and internationally — into an organization of more than 33 million volunteers and supporters dedicated to improving heart health and reducing deaths from cardiovascular diseases and stroke.

The six cardiologists who founded the American Heart Association in 1924 would be amazed.

From humble beginnings, the AHA has grown into the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke. A shared focus on cardiovascular health unites our more than 40 million volunteers and supporters as well as our more than 2,800 employees. Learn more about our impact over time.

Heart disease is the No. 1 killer worldwide, and stroke ranks second globally. Even when those conditions don’t result in death, they cause disability and diminish quality of life. We want to see a world free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke.

Our size and scope let us have real impact. We have invested more than $4.5 billion in research, more than any U.S. nonprofit organization. Learn more about our life-changing funded research breakthroughs.