New year marks perfect time to get your heart healthy at Essentia Health

Plan on making a New Year’s resolution? If so, consider incorporating the health of your heart into any 2023 commitments.

“The holidays can be a lovely time,” said Dr. Rory Farnan, cardiologist at Essentia Health. “It can be a time to connect with family members, some of whom we haven’t seen in person in a long time. That said, often this time together – in close quarters, away from the cold – can be stressful. Sometimes we resort to old coping strategies, managing this stress with food, alcohol, smoking or other habits that aren’t healthy for us.”

Added Dr. Catherine Benziger, Essentia cardiologist: “This is a great time of year to refocus on one’s heart health. It’s important to make changes to be as healthy as possible as prevention is the best way to avoid heart attacks and strokes and other chronic conditions.”

Heart health is something that is often overlooked until it is too late, increasing the risk for a major cardiac event. However, Essentia offers many tools that can aid in preventive care and maintaining a healthy heart.

One resource is our heart risk assessment tool. During the brief assessment, you compare your actual age to your heart’s biological age, calculate your risk of developing cardiovascular disease and prioritize your most alarming risk factors. It also explains those risk factors and provides helpful tips on taking care of your heart and preventing future complications. Best of all, it only takes five minutes and is free.

There are a variety of ways you can take care of your heart, including the following:

  • Eating a balanced diet: Include fresh veggies, whole grains and lean proteins while avoiding fried, packaged or high-sugar and/or -salt foods.
  • Being active: Exercise at least 30 minutes a day.
  • Maintain a healthy weight: Losing weight if you’re overweight can help prevent heart problems.
  • Get quality sleep: Aim for at least seven hours a night.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Manage stress and health conditions: Stress, high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol and other conditions are linked to increased heart trouble.

“While I wouldn’t encourage starting an intense exercise program without consulting your primary care provider or cardiologist first, this season might be the perfect time to choose exercise as a heathier way to cope with the stresses that family can sometimes bring,” said Dr. Farnan.

“A good rule of thumb is to just move more and sit less,” said Dr. Benziger. “We recommend at least 8,000-10,000 steps a day for most adults. Kids need 60 minutes of physical activity every day. Maintaining a normal body weight helps prevent the onset of diabetes and high blood pressure. Getting enough sleep and reducing stress are important, too, and under-recognized risk factors for heart disease.”

Essentia also offers a cardiometabolic clinic. This is a specialized program developed to help reduce your cardiometabolic risk, maintain a healthy lifestyle and improve risk factors to prevent heart and vascular disease. Our experts work with patients who have high blood pressure or cholesterol, diabetes, obstructive sleep apnea and more. All of these risk factors can increase your chance of heart disease. Our team will work with you to help with early diagnosis and treatment while creating a personalized plan for a healthy lifestyle.

“Mindfulness meditation can also be another healthy coping tool to help bring a little more peace and serenity into our lives,” said Dr. Farnan. “If you need help turning over this new leaf, including determining whether your heart is ready to jump into your new-found active lifestyle, don’t hesitate to reach out to your health care provider.”

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in both men and women in the United States. Heart disease symptoms can be different in everyone so it’s important to understand your personal risk factors.

“If someone is concerned about their family history, has a history of pregnancy-related high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, autoimmune diseases or is high risk on the heart survey, we recommend they schedule an appointment with a primary care provider to discuss their risk,” said Dr. Benziger. “A coronary artery calcium score or a visit with a cardiologist may be helpful for adults older than 40 at intermediate to high risk to determine if they need additional medication to lower their risk.”

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