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Education Will Do Your Heart Good

Education Will Do Your Heart Good

Noted cardiologist will discuss heart-health tips at February seminar

February, the month of heart-shaped Valentines, is also American Heart Health Month – the perfect time to learn more about heart health and get your own heart in shape!

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) – including coronary heart disease (CHD) – were listed as the most common underlying cause of death in the United States in 2019, the latest year for which data is available. That year, CVDs accounted for 874,613 deaths in the U.S., and CHD caused approximately 41.3 percent of those deaths.

“The good news is that a lot of heart disease is preventable, if people follow a healthy lifestyle and keep track of their risks for heart disease,” says Rohit Sehgal, MD, FACC, cardiologist at Washington Township Medical Foundation. “You cannot change inherent risk factors such as your age or family history of heart disease, but you really can control many risk factors associated with lifestyle choices.”

To help people learn more about preventive strategies to improve heart health, Washington Hospital is offering a free seminar featuring Dr. Sehgal on Thursday, Feb. 23. The seminar, ”Staying Heart Healthy,” will be presented online through both Facebook and YouTube, beginning at 3 p.m. The seminar will include time for questions from participants.

“At the seminar, I want to provide simple guidance that people can take to heart,” Dr. Sehgal explains. “For example, I will discuss the importance of regular exercise and give the guidelines recommended by the AHA and other experts. In general, those guidelines call for moderate-intensity exercise for at least 30 minutes, roughly five times a week. It’s important to choose a form of exercise you enjoy, so that you will be more likely to continue exercising. As a side benefit, exercise is one of the best antidepressants, and it also helps lower your stress level.”

Dr. Sehgal also will focus the relationship between diet and heart health. “A healthy diet is key to good heart health,” he says. “There are a variety of heart-healthy diets, including the Mediterranean diet, which we can discuss during the seminar. Most food manufacturers have eliminated transfats from their products, but it is still worth mentioning that transfats, such as vegetable shortening and some fried fast foods, are trouble for heart health. We also will talk about fish and poultry that can be part of a heart-healthy diet and ways to limit consumption of highly saturated fats found in red meats. Sugary drinks also are culprits that can contribute to heart disease.”

Regular exercise and a healthy diet also can help reduce additional risk factors – having diabetes and being overweight or obese, according to Dr. Sehgal. One tool for monitoring how well you are maintaining a healthy weight is to use an online body mass index (BMI) measurement. Your BMI involves a calculation based on your height and weight. Some BMI tools, such as the “Smart BMI Calculator” ( take additional factors into consideration, such as age, gender, ethnicity and diets.

“Many people have quit smoking over the past several decades, but smoking and use of other tobacco products still constitute a risk to your heart health,” Dr. Sehgal admonishes. “As for ‘vaping,’ it seems to be as addictive if not more so than smoking, and it still could pose a risk for heart disease and other health problems.”

Additional topics Dr. Sehgal will address in the seminar include:

  • Scheduling regular checkups at least once a year to monitor risk factors such as blood pressure, blood sugar levels and cholesterol
  • Limiting your intake of alcoholic beverages, with guidance as to what levels of consumption are considered “safe”
  • Getting enough sleep, since sleep deprivation can increase the risks for heart disease, with recommendations for good “sleep hygiene” habits
  • Managing stress, which can be a contributing factor in heart disease

“I believe stress is a contributing factor in heart disease,” Dr. Sehgal explains. “Stress is definitely a factor in older women who suffer Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, also known as ‘broken heart syndrome.’ This condition weakens the left ventricle, the heart's main pumping chamber, usually as the result of severe emotional or physical stress. The ventricle actually changes shape so that it looks similar to a Tako-Tsubo pot, which is a Japanese fishing pot used to catch octopuses.

“We also have seen more and more cases of patients dealing with the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic and consequent social isolation,” he adds. “As a result, we have seen a subsequent latent increase in heart disease. We will talk about ways to manage stress to lessen your risks for heart disease.”

Join the Seminar – Learn More

To view the seminar on Facebook, sign in to your account and then go to To watch via YouTube, go to People attending via Facebook will be able to ask questions directly during the seminar. Those watching on Facebook or YouTube may submit questions in advance to If you miss the live event, it will be archived and available for viewing within 24 hours on Washington Hospital’s Facebook and YouTube pages.

If you need help finding a physician, visit and click on the link for “Find a Doctor.”