02/14/2012 09:08 am ET

Star Jones Calls Heart Disease Awareness Her 'Entire Life's Work' (VIDEO)

Star Jones knows how to put up a fight. She's battled critics and colleagues and reality show nemeses, and when it comes to heart disease, she isn't backing down either.

Nearly two years since she underwent cardiac surgery as a follow-up to a procedure she had to remove a thoracic tumor, Jones sat down with celebrity stylist Phillip Bloch to discuss how far her heart health journey has come.

"I'd beaten obesity. I took it on in front of the entire world and got probably more criticism than anybody could ever get for actually losing weight," she says. But despite her efforts to maintain a healthy lifestyle, including working out and practicing portion control, Jones was told she had the early signs of heart disease -- shortness of breath, heart palpitations and fatigue, to be exact.

"With those words, 'Star you need open heart surgery," I became one of the millions of Americans who suffers from cardiovascular disease," she says. "I become one of millions of Americans who suffer from the number one killer in America. And when it comes to African Americans and women, it beats the next four causes of death combined."

That reality, Jones says, is why she's dedicating her "entire life's work" to raising awareness about the disease and to keeping off the more than 150 pounds she lost as a result of gastic bypass surgery in 2003.

"This is the healthiest I've ever been in my life," she says. "Once you get your weight under control, you start to even expose what other issues you have. I truly believe that had I not chosen to have weight loss surgery and thus reduce my girth, I would not have been able to withstand open heart surgery," she adds.

While Jones reflects on the advances she's made in battling her own heart disease risks, the medical community continues to make strides of its own. Here are eight facts about heart health that have surfaced since last year's American Heart Month.

heart studies


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