CHICAGO, Nov. 13, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- The Vitality Group, part of the world's longest-standing and largest incentive-based wellness program, is pleased to announce they are a Million Hearts™ Partner working to support the prevention of one million strokes and heart attacks in the United States by 2017. (Logo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20110713/CG34519LOGO) Million Hearts is a national initiative launched a year ago within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The initiative engages many public and private partners to address heart health and cardiovascular disease, an epidemic costing the nation $444 billion a year in healthcare costs and lost economic productivity. As an innovator in the wellness industry, The Vitality Group will help convey the Million Hearts message to employees of its employer groups across the nation. The HHS program brings attention to the fact that while cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death in the U.S., it can largely be prevented if underlying risk factors are addressed early enough. "High blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol, and smoking are key risk factors for cardiovascular disease, and approximately half of the adults in the United States suffer from at least one of them," said Dr. Janet Wright, Million Hearts Executive Director. "The Vitality Group is providing a valuable service by joining in our efforts to prevent and control these risk factors and we are especially excited by their approach to prevention, which engages groups at large, not just individuals, to take action to improve their heart health." Starting in 2013, The Vitality Group will use its proven wellness engagement model to support the Million Hearts mission through programs developed to get members moving, improve their diets, strengthen their hearts, and lower blood pressure and cholesterol. The campaign will include challenges and competitions aimed at both groups and individuals, specifically designed to promote cardiovascular health.