Here's to a healthy 2021, with resolutions from heart doctors

Malorny/Moment, Getty Images
(Malorny/Moment, Getty Images)

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Deep in their hearts, everyone has to be looking forward to a fresh start in 2021.

And who would know better about matters of the heart than a cardiologist? We asked some of the nation's best about resolutions – what they're planning for themselves, and what they wish their patients would focus on for a healthy and happy new year.

Their advice begins with a reminder that the threat of COVID-19 will not vanish at the stroke of midnight on Dec. 31.

"You need to resolve to stay healthy and safe," said Dr. Ivor Benjamin, director of the Cardiovascular Center and professor of medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. "It's an ever-present challenge for everyone, independent of where they are."

In California, Dr. Robert Harrington is chair of the department of medicine at Stanford University. He's making its institutional motto a personal one as the fight against the coronavirus goes on.

Stanford Medicine tells its health care workers, researchers, staff and students to be safe, be smart, be kind, said Harrington, a past president of the American Heart Association. "So my personal resolution is that I will work at staying safe through good public health measures of mask-wearing, frequent hand-washing and appropriate social distancing; at staying smart by keeping up to date with the latest news and research on COVID-19; and at staying kind by focusing on our extended community needs.

"Here's hoping that my patients can do the same."

Even as the pandemic is a top health concern, there's room for thinking beyond it.

"The new year is always a good time for patients to reprioritize their health," said Dr. Fatima Rodriguez, an assistant professor of cardiovascular medicine at Stanford. She'd like patients to focus on healthy eating and scheduling physical activity every day. "There are no quick fixes to optimal cardiovascular health. It takes consistency."

Dr. Rachel M. Bond, system director of women's heart health at Dignity Health in Arizona, suggests resolving to learn the art of relaxation.

"Although stress and anxiety are common – and we've had more than our fair share of both in 2020 – chronic stress and anxiety can be dangerous for our heart health." Anxiety can trigger the release of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, which can increase heart rate and blood pressure. Women are at higher risk for stress-related heart issues, Bond said.