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February Is American Heart Month: 5 Tips to Improve Your Heart Health

This February marks the 57th consecutive American Heart Month — a time when the nation comes together to spotlight heart disease, the number one cause of death for all Americans. President Lyndon B. Johnson, who suffered three major heart attacks during his life, issued the first proclamation in 1964, and, since then, U.S. presidents have annually declared February American Heart Month. This year, the federally designated event is all the more important due to the impact of COVID-19 on public heart health, including harmful effects on the heart and cardiovascular system.


The COVID-19 pandemic is also an excellent reason why many Americans have delayed or avoided going to the hospital entirely for heart attacks and strokes. This is especially concerning given that, while in lockdown, more engaged in unhealthy behaviors than ever before, such as eating poorly, limiting physical activity, and drinking more alcohol. All of which, in excess, can contribute to heart disease. 


In light of this alarming news, we encourage all Americans to take control of their heart health by better monitoring their risk levels and making healthy lifestyle changes with the help of a heart specialist in Tampa. In this brief guide, we’ll be going over five tips you can use to improve your heart health and reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. For more information regarding heart care in Tampa, don’t hesitate to reach out to Jesal V. Popat, M.D., FACC, a board-certified cardiologist.


1. Check Your Blood Pressure

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a common but dangerous condition in which the long-term force of blood against your artery walls is high enough that it leads to serious health problems, such as heart disease and stroke. Fortunately, hypertension doesn’t come on overnight. It typically develops over the course of several years and can be detected early with the help of regular blood pressure readings from one of our Tampa cardiac specialists. Below, we’ve outlined the healthy and unhealthy blood pressure ranges, as recommended by the American Heart Association:


  • Normal: Less than 120 systolic and 80 diastolic

  • Elevated: 120-129 systolic and less than 80 diastolic

  • High Blood Pressure Stage 1 (Hypertension): 130-139 systolic or 80-89 diastolic

  • High Blood Pressure Stage 2 (Hypertension): 140 or higher systolic or 90 or higher diastolic

  • Hypertensive Crisis: Higher than 180 systolic and/or higher than 120 diastolic


2. Stop Smoking

Did you know that cigarette smoking is the number one cause of preventable disease and death in the United States? This is because, in addition to increasing the risk of lung cancer and breathing problems, cigarette smoking also greatly increases the risk of heart disease, peripheral vascular disease, and abdominal aortic aneurysm. This is likely due to the fact that smoking increases your heart rate, causes an irregular rhythm, and tightens major arteries — all of which make your heart work harder and raise your blood pressure in the process. There’s no better time than American Heart Month to cut back on the number of cigarettes you smoke each week.


Related: How Quitting Smoking Can Lower Your Risk for Heart Disease

3. Get Active

As many as 250,000 deaths per year in the United States can be attributed to a lack of physical activity, resulting in chronic diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension, osteoporosis, and colon cancer. To decrease your chance of having a heart attack or experiencing another cardiac event, such as a stroke, you’ll want to aim for at least 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic activity or a combination of both. Aerobic activity is going to be the exercises that you perform for a sustained period of time, such as brisk walking, swimming, or cycling. This would not include activities performed at maximum effort for a short period of time, such as weightlifting or sprinting.

Related: 4 Best Exercises to Boost Your Heart Health


4. Reduce Your Intake of Highly-Processed Foods

The vast majority of foods are processed, changed, packaged, or prepared in some way before we eat them. They fall on a spectrum from minimally processed (like bagged dry beans or frozen fruits and vegetables) to highly-processed (like ready-to-eat meals and snack foods.) These are the foods that have a good deal of ingredients added, such as sweeteners, oils, preservatives, and artificial colors. But they aren’t just full of fat, sugar, and calories, they’re also low in fiber, minerals, and vitamins that can help prevent heart disease. To best manage and prevent high blood pressure, you’ll want to be sure to try and reduce your intake of highly-processed foods as much as possible — especially those with added sodium and sugar.

Related: Adopting a Plant-Based Lifestyle? Consider These Tips From a Cardiologist


5. Schedule Regular Check-Ups

Last but not least, you’ll want to be sure to schedule regular check-ups with the top cardiologist in Tampa — Jesal V. Popat, M.D., FACC. This will most likely consist of an annual physical examination and routine cardiac testing unless you’re experiencing symptoms such as chest pain. In that circumstance, you may be asked to undergo something like a stress test. Otherwise, the only heart-related tests appropriate for most people who aren’t experiencing any concerning symptoms are those that measure your blood cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure levels. Should these numbers seem alarming, your cardiologist will then prompt you to make changes to your lifestyle or diet to start proactively living in a more heart-healthy way.


To consult Jesal V. Popat, M.D., FACC, the best cardiologist in Tampa, please call (813) 344-0934 or fill out our contact form to schedule an appointment. 


Disclaimer: The contents of this website are for general educational purposes only. All content and media on the Jesal V. Popat, M.D., FACC website does not constitute professional medical advice nor is the information intended to replace the services of Jesal V. Popat, M.D., FACC or other qualified medical professionals. If you believe you are having a medical emergency, call 911 immediately.


The content, views, and opinions communicated on this website do not represent the views of Jesal V. Popat, M.D., FACC. Reliance on any information provided by this website is solely at your own risk. Although this website contains links to other medical websites, this is strictly for informational purposes. Jesal V. Popat, M.D., FACC is not responsible nor does the medical practice approve of the content featured on any third party linked websites referenced on this website. 

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