Eastern Minnesota

Health News from Eastern Minnesota

Gain freedom from tobacco with help from the Tobacco Independence Program.
How deadly is high blood pressure?
Treat yourself to healthy living


Gain freedom from tobacco with help from the Tobacco Independence Program.

Cigarette smoking is the number-one cause of preventable disease and death worldwide. Smoking-related diseases claim over 393,000 American lives each year. Smoking cost the United States over $193 billion in 2004, including $97 billion in lost productivity and $96 billion in direct health care expenditures, or an average of $4,260 per adult smoker.

According to Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, smoking-related diseases claim more than 5,000 Minnesotan lives each year. In 2007, smoking cost Minnesota $2.87 billion – that’s equal to $554 for every man, woman and child living in the state. Smoking’s high price affects everyone.

If you are tired of being out of breath, getting sick, standing outside in the cold, and having cigarettes or chew control your life and your schedule, there is hope – there is help.

Saint Elizabeth’s Tobacco Independence Program provides individual consultations, carbon monoxide monitoring, support, education, nicotine replacement products, medications and follow-up support.

Costs, which may be covered by insurance, vary depending on the sessions you attend. To learn more about Saint Elizabeth’s Tobacco Independence Program, call 651.565.4531.

Within minutes of smoking your last cigarette, your health starts to improve.

  • 20 minutes later heart rate drops to normal.
  • 12 hours later carbon monoxide levels in your blood drop to normal.
  • 2 weeks to 3 months later heart attack risk drops and lung function improves.
  • 1 to 9 months later coughing and shortness of breath decrease.
  • 1 year later risk of coronary heart disease is half that of a smoker’s.
  • 5 to 15 years later risk of stroke is the same as a nonsmoker’s.
  • 10 years later risk of lung and other cancer decreases.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2004

Exercise, education and encouragement are good for the heart

With a glint of determination, Eric Bennett of Plainview is no longer rejecting the need to change – he is embracing it. And there’s no stopping him now. He knows his life depends on the choices he makes today.

Eric Bennett with Meghan Sandve,
cardiac rehab specialist
Eric came face to face with this realization at the ripe, young age of 39 – when he thought he was invincible. Despite a strong family history of heart disease, he never thought a heart attack would strike in the prime of life.

However, 5 years ago, while he was walking with his wife, Brenda, Eric began experiencing chest pain and just didn’t feel right.

A visit to his provider, Rob Taylor, MD, at Mayo Clinic Health System in Plainview, revealed the need for further cardiovascular testing. While undergoing a stress test at Mayo Clinic, Eric had a heart attack. His outpatient procedure turned into a 5-day hospital stay after the cardiologists placed two stents to clear the blockage that was constricting blood flow to his heart.

Before his discharge, Eric was introduced to cardiac rehabilitation, an education and support program that helps patients with heart disease gain strength and endurance and assists them in managing their chronic illness. Midway through his rehabilitation program, Eric requested a transfer to Saint Elizabeth’s Wellness Center in Wabasha.

“I had heard a lot of good things about the program at Saint Elizabeth’s, and it was more convenient to commute to Wabasha,” says Eric. “Saint Elizabeth’s has a small-town feel; the staff and patients are welcoming. It didn’t take long to feel comfortable and at home in this environment.”

A serious setback

Eric successfully completed the 36-session program, followed by a 2-year maintenance program, but then Eric’s old, unhealthy habits slowly began to develop again.

“I was exercising, but not like I needed to,” Eric admits. “And I was eating, but not like I should!”

Eric’s wake-up call came in July 2012. During a follow–up appointment with his cardiologist, Steve Kopecky, MD, Eric’s blood pressure dropped. A closer look revealed that Eric had developed more blockage at the site of one of his original stents.

Understanding that genetics would forever work against him, he gained renewed inspiration to take the control of his life and Eric determined to make a lifelong commitment to exercise and healthy eating.

Eric re-enrolled in Saint Elizabeth’s Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation Program with Meghan Sandve, cardiac rehab specialist, as his coach. He traveled to Saint Elizabeth’s 3 days a week for exercise, education and encouragement. After monitored rotation on the treadmill, elliptical and bike, Eric participated in educational classes that addressed nutrition, medications, stress and other health-related issues.

Making changes that last

“Everything the staff teaches is practical and easy to understand,” said Eric. “They offer great tools and tips. I learned I was a ‘kettle-eater’. One of my hobbies is cooking and after preparing a hearty meal, I would place the kettle in the middle of the table and scoop out servings until I was full. Now, the kettle stays on the stove and I serve up one portion. When I’ve cleaned my plate, I know I am finished. It’s all about moderation – not denial. These hints aren’t necessarily easy, but they are all worth it.”

Interwoven within every aspect of the rehab program was plenty of fun and fellowship. “My father died of a heart attack at age 56 so I am dealing with serious stuff,” Eric said. “but I can’t let this drag me down. Laughter is the best medicine. If you can believe it, the staff makes exercising fun!”

“While we are monitoring their blood pressure, heart rate,and other vital signs, we try to set the right tone for our patients,” adds Meghan. “The wellness center environment is encouraging and engaging. Patients socialize among themselves, lively music is always playing, and we offer games and incentives. Caring for the emotional health of our patients is just as important as the physical.”

Eric recently completed his second round of rehab, and is now committed to long-term maintenance. He regularly travels to Wabasha because it holds him accountable and offers him inspiration. He has a treadmill at home and uses it in between sessions and on weekends. But it’s the discipline and dependency of setting aside a consistent pattern of exercise that will ensure his success.

“I’ve already lost six pounds and feel so much better,” he shares. “I know I am on the right track and it’s sustainable. I relapsed once and that was enough. I’ve got the resolve to keep this up – not only for myself, but for my wife, children and grandchildren.”

Saint Elizabeth’s Wellness Center offers a broad scope of prevention, wellness, and chronic disease management programs and services. To learn more, talk to your provider or call Saint Elizabeth’s directly at 651.565.5519.


How deadly is high blood pressure?

Smoking, high blood pressure and being overweight are the leading preventable risk factors for premature mortality in the United States.

Why is high blood pressure dangerous?

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a condition in which the pressure of the blood against blood vessel walls is too strong. It can cause damage to blood vessels and lead to other problems, including heart disease, stroke and kidney disease.

What do those numbers mean?

“A normal blood pressure reading is a combination of two numbers. The systolic pressure, or top number, is read “over” the diastolic pressure, or bottom number. Normal blood pressure is 120 over 80.”

Systolic blood pressure – the pressure as the heart pumps blood into the arteries.

Diastolic blood pressure – the pressure as the heart rests between beats.

If you take a blood pressure reading and it is higher than 120 over 80, you will need to take it several more times throughout your day. Your blood pressure can fluctuate with activity, posture, movement, and other factors. This is why it is important to take your blood pressure after rest in a sitting position. If it remains higher than normal, you should call your health care provider for treatment. You should also contact your provider if your blood pressure is unusually low.

A low blood pressure is a systolic reading of 90 or lower and a diastolic reading of 60 or lower.

A pre-hypertension reading would be: systolic pressure of 120 to 139 or diastolic pressure of 80 to 89

A high blood pressure reading would be a: systolic pressure of 140 or higher or a diastolic pressure of 90 or higher

While you cannot control your age, gender, ethnicity and family history, you can modify your diet, exercise and lose weight to help you maintain a normal blood pressure.

A single high reading does not mean that you have high blood pressure, but if your values stay high over time, your health care provider may recommend a treatment program.

Your health care provider should also evaluate unusually low blood pressure.

For more information, contact your health care provider or Saint Elizabeth’s Medical Center at 651.565.5519.


Treat yourself to healthy living

Saint Elizabeth’s Medical Center wants to help you ...

Prevention & Wellness

LEARN Weight Management / Healthy Living Program is a step-by-step, 12-week weight-management and healthy-lifestyle program designed for people who want to make healthier choices. For more information, call 651.565.5568.

FRESH START, a coordinated system of preventative, diagnostic and therapeutic measures, provides cost-effective, quality health care for patients who have, or are at risk for, specific chronic conditions.

WORKWELL WORKS FOR BUSINESSES is a health, wellness and disease prevention program for work sites.

TOBACCO INDEPENDENCE PROGRAM is an individualized smoking or chewing cessation program.

Chronic Disease Management

DIABETES SELF-MANAGEMENT PROGRAM helps adults with diabetes improve glucose control through lifestyle modification and exercise.

CARDIAC REHABILITATION incorporates inpatient, early outpatient and supervised maintenance exercises for people who have been diagnosed with any form of heart disease. It provides monitored exercise, risk factor education, modification tips and support from cardiac rehab specialists.

PULMONARY REHABILITATION is a supervised exercise, educational and support program that helps people with respiratory and lung diseases to maximize their energy levels and improve their overall health.

ARTHRITIS FOUNDATION EXERCISE PROGRAM is designed for people with arthritis who want to improve joint strength and range of motion and decrease pain.

For more information, call 651.565.5519 or email semcinfo@ministryheatlh.org.


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