OWATONNA – Traditionally the month for lovers and all things heart related, February also reminds us to take care of our heart. This Valentine’s Day, a local doctor wants to encourage everyone to take the health of their heart to heart as a part of American Heart Month.

“In pretty much every area of the country, patients need to be concerned with heart attacks and strokes,” said Dr. Breno Pessanha, a cardiologist with the Mayo Health Clinic in Owatonna. “We should be aware of heart health from any age – healthy living is important to prevent heart disease and it’s best to start that at a young age.”

While Pessanha states that typically those without a family history of heart disease need to be more conscientious of their heart health once the reach middle age – about 40 for men and 50 for women – it is never too early to establish a pattern of healthy food and daily exercise to ensure a healthy heart.

American Heart Month began as an annual celebration in 1963 to encourage Americans to join the battle against heart disease, the leading cause of death for both men and women in the country according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to Mayo, heart disease is a big term referring to any disease of the heart, with the most common cause being coronary artery disease – a buildup of plaque in the arteries. Over time, this can lead to narrowing of arteries and risk of a heart attack.

For Pessanha, prevention is the true goal when it comes to combating heart disease.

“It’s about taking lifestyle measures that make it less likely that you end up with a cardiac event,” he stated. “Patients would love to have a pill that would prevent everything, taking a pill is much easier than the unfortunate truth.”

Pessanha said that he talks about lifestyle with his patients on a daily basis, specifically what they eat and what he believes to be a good died.

“A mostly plant-based diet, or something that minimizes meat and processed food, is a good diet,” Pessanha said. “Some may believe that even a vegan diet may be a perfect diet, so anything that can get you closer to that would be good.”

While Pessanha says that a vegan diet can be extremely challenging, admitting that he himself has tried it and could not stick to it perfectly, he suggests a Mediterranean diet that focuses on fruits, vegetables, healthy fats and oils, and a lot of fish.

“As far as animal products, fish is one of the healthiest,” he added.

When it comes to exercise, Pessanha said that it’s hard to dictate what the magic amount of exercise is as it varies so much from person to person. Overall, he said it’s important to just make sure to move a little.

“Try a goal of 30 minutes of movement five days a week,” he said. “Of if you are healthy and young we suggest 75 minutes of vigorous exercise a week.”

In today’s society, Pessanha said that he unfortunately does not see heart disease declining anytime soon. Issues like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high blood glucose, and overall obesity continue to be a problem plaguing every community – including Owatonna.

“It’s a challenge to lose weight and exercise, and everyone has a good excuse for why they don’t do it,” Pessanha said. “But your body doesn’t get any healthier with excuses.”

Reach Reporter Annie Granlund at 507-444-2378 or follow her on Twitter @OPPAnnie. ©Copyright 2020 APG Media of Southern Minnesota.

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