February is Heart Month, and to celebrate, we wear red, Cupid shoots his arrows, and we express our love by purchasing chocolate and roses.

But for those of us with more passion for cardiology than greeting cards, I'd like to present an alternative Valentine's idea: A healthier you.

After all, the best gift we can give our loved ones is good health. Let's leap into the month by taking 29 steps toward a healthier heart. You won't want to miss a beat.

During the entire Heart Month, we will explore simple ways that you can make lifestyle changes. The information we present comes from my own work as a cardiologist with 18 years of study and practice focused on heart disease prevention. My colleague Patti Morris, a dietitian and nutritionist, will provide her insight on the food planning and preparation essential to your long-term success.

The Healthy Change of Heart Program we are sharing has helped more than 2,000 people achieve a better tomorrow. My research into lowering cholesterol with the use of supplements and lifestyle changes, often without the use of statins, has been published in medical journals including the Mayo Clinic Proceedings, Annals of Internal Medicine, and the American Heart Journal.

With the information we are offering weekly in The Inquirer's Health section, and daily on Philly.com, you can participate in this program and begin a journey that could change your life.

One of the major themes in this program is the huge importance of small changes in how we eat, exercise, and respond to stress. You may even be able to reduce or eliminate entirely some prescription medications, but please don't change your regimen without consulting your own physician.

You will also hear advice from an exercise physiologist and several experts in relaxation techniques. More than 600,000 Americans die every year of heart disease, and doing something about that toll will take a team effort.

Here is the way it works: Every day for the next month, you'll find a new tip or short video to a healthier heart. And on Mondays at noon, you're invited to a live chat with myself and Patti. Please send your questions to health@philly.com, and we will get to as many of them as possible.

Especially if you already have heart disease, consult your physician to be sure you can tolerate more exercise. But even if you already have had coronary artery blockages and have used medication, bypass surgery, and coronary stents, you can get far better results if you also improve your lifestyle habits.

As you begin this month of change, the Healthy Change of Heart Program can help you begin to stop or even reverse the progression of coronary blockages. The degree of benefit, of course, is directly linked to how much you do.

David Becker, M.D., is a board-certified cardiologist with Chestnut Hill Temple Cardiology in Flourtown.