Nolan Family Center for Cardiovascular Health

We’re working to determine the optimal approach to preventing heart and vascular disease, not just for our patients, but for patients around the world. 

 A World Without Heart and Vascular Disease

Heart disease is the #1 cause of death for both men and women in the U.S., which is why MHIF is committed to helping prevent heart disease before it happens. A healthy lifestyle can significantly decrease your risk for heart disease by up to 80 percent. But there is still much more we can learn about the best ways to identify people at risk and prevent even more heart and vascular disease. MHIF researchers are using data to develop innovative risk assessment tools and find ways to better manage and reduce risk factors that make it easier for people to prevent and treat heart disease.

As a result of our research expertise across all cardiovascular subspecialties, our multiple locations across the region, our global reach and our access to big data, MHIF is poised to address heart health in a way it has not been done before.

The Nolan Family Center for Cardiovascular Health is dedicated to cardiovascular prevention research. MHIF has a long history of groundbreaking research and education across a wide spectrum of prevention-related topics, including cardiovascular risk prediction using coronary artery calcium testing, the impact of blood pressure and cholesterol guidelines, the optimal use of statin therapy, and the impact of nutrition and and other healthy lifestyle behaviors.

A one-year fellowship in cardiovascular prevention is available beginning July 1, 2021, to provide a robust experience to an individual interested in the field of cardiovascular prevention. 

News release: Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation® Receives $5 Million Charitable Gift to Accelerate Progress in World-Class Cardiovascular Prevention Research and Education

Committed to Groundbreaking Prevention Research

Under the leadership of Dr. Michael Miedema, the Nolan Family Center for Cardiovascular Health’s vision is “to change the paradigm from disease to optimal health as a world-class leader in cardiovascular disease prevention.” The center is focusing research in two areas —  cardiovascular risk prediction and optimal preventive therapies. Patient and provider education in cardiovascular prevention is the other core element of the center.

Cardiovascular Risk Prediction

One of the ultimate goals of cardiovascular prevention is to develop a “crystal ball” for CVD risk prediction. Knowing which patients to aggressively treat creates an opportunity to avoid the tragic heart attack or the unwanted bypass surgery.

MHIF is pursuing research in areas such as Coronary Artery Calcium (CAC) scoring, genetic testing for cardiovascular risk, and the best ways to treat genetically elevated cholesterolpolygenic (Familial Hypercholesterolemia).

Optimal Preventive Therapies

Even with significant improvement in cardiovascular risk prediction, progress in cardiovascular prevention cannot be made unless effective treatments are available.

MHIF is pursuing a broad range of studies evaluating treatments targeting multiple risk factors, including hypertension, diabetes, lipids, smoking, nutrition and obesity.

Cardiovascular Health Beyond the Clinic Walls

Recognizing that 80 percent of health care happens outside the clinic walls, the Nolan Family Center for Cardiovascular Health is committed to research, education and consulting to help communities become healthier and more supportive. 

Heart of New Ulm Project

Our 10-year, award-winning population health research project, Hearts Beat Back: The Heart of New Ulm Project, demonstrated improved cardiovascular risk across the entire rural community of New Ulm, Minn. Through our Rural Health Transformation Center, we’re now helping other communities simply and accelerate their health improvement initiatives.

Learn more about our Rural Health Transformation Center offerings.

Mental Health

One-third of all cardiovascular outcomes are related to mental health, whether it’s social isolation, anger, depression, anxiety, etc. Depression rates are three times higher in patients with heart disease. Recognizing the critical role that mental health plays in cardiovascular health, MHIF research and education teams will be examining ways to address this in a holistic way with patient populations.

Take a proactive strategy to managing your mental health.

Cardiovascular Health Education and Information

Heart disease is the #1 cause of death for both men and women in the U.S. How can you prevent heart disease? Watch the video to learn more.

Patients and Families

There are certain risk factors for heart disease that you cannot change, such as your age and gender. However, you can improve other risk factors, such as how well you manage your blood pressure and cholesterol and whether you use tobacco. Ask your primary care provider to calculate your risk for heart disease and talk with them about lifestyle changes and/or medications that can help you prevent heart disease. 

Here’s what you need to know >>

Prevention for Professionals

MHIF established the Nolan Family Center for Cardiovascular Health to provide a diverse approach to cardiovascular disease prevention across three pillars: 1) research, 2) education and 3) leadership. Access our professional resources below to help people everywhere get the best care for their heart.

More Information and Publications, Lectures >>

Featured Highlights

Food as Medicine

Over the past few decades, research has continued to grow in helping us to understand that poor nutrition is the #1 cause of poor health. A Food as Medicine approach combines nutritious foods, education and technology with the goal of improving patient outcomes.

Tune into MHIF’s special Grand Rounds presented by Dariush Mozaffarian on “Food as Medicine”

Coronary Artery Calcium Scoring Research

Coronary artery calcium (CAC) scoring is currently the best method available to assess cardiovascular risk through an imaging scan. Our physician partners at Minneapolis Heart Institute® have a database of more than 30,000 individuals who have undergone CAC scoring. By updating this database and collaborating with researchers around the country through a national registry, MHIF researchers can better understand how to best use CAC scoring to determine cardiovascular risk and guide preventive treatments.

Statin Intolerance Research

Statin therapy for the primary and secondary prevention of heart disease has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of heart and vascular events. However, many patients are concerned about potential side effects, particularly related to musculoskeletal complaints. Statin intolerance is one of the most complicated clinical issues in all of preventive medicine. Through Dr. Michael Miedema’s original researcher-initiated DESIFOR Trial, researchers aim to establish a true test for statin intolerance, the results of which may benefit patients, providers and insurers.

Familial Hypercholesterolemia Research

Familial Hypercholesterolemia (FH) is a family-based genetic disorder affecting about one in 250 people in the U.S., where people have much higher cholesterol levels than expected at much younger ages, unrelated to diet or lifestyle. Led by MHIF researcher Dr. Thomas Knickelbine, the CASCADE-FH Registry is a national initiative to increase FH awareness and screening, characterize trends in treatment, and monitor clinical and patient-reported outcomes. MHIF collaborates with other clinical researchers to address these known gaps.

Read Natasha Karn’s story.

Research on New Treatment for High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure affects more than one billion people worldwide, yet nearly one in three individuals struggle to control their blood pressure despite being on medication. For a growing subset of patients, medications either don’t work or are not tolerated, which puts them at greater risk of serious complications. Under the leadership of Minneapolis Heart Institute® cardiologist and MHIF researcher Dr. Yale Wang, MHIF is one of the leading global centers involved in studying the safety and effectiveness of an investigational device. The device delivers ultrasound energy to the tissues around the renal arteries to decrease over-activity of the nerves, which may be present in patients with high blood pressure. Read the story of the Anderson siblings.

Read more about the research study

News & Events 


Take a proactive strategy to managing your mental health

Did you know that one-third of all cardiovascular outcomes are related to mental health, whether...

News & Events

Dr. Miedema Takes Part in New Research to Help Doctors Better Identify Patients Who Should Take Aspirin

Dr. Michael Miedema, director of cardiovascular prevention at MHIF, took part in new research that helps doctors better identify the patients who should be taking aspirin.

News & Events

New research shows only six in 10 patients eligible for a statin are prescribed one

According to recently published findings in Clinical Cardiology by Allina Health and Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation® (MHIF) researchers, more than four years after the initial release of the guidelines, approximately four in 10 patients for whom a statin would be appropriate were still not being prescribed the medication.


MHIF Team Publishes New Paper in Population Health Management

As part of our work to help other communities implement the most effective interventions for improving population health, MHIF’s Population Health Team has published its latest paper, “Population-Level Reach of Cardiovascular Disease Prevention Interventions in a Rural Community: Findings from The Heart of New Ulm Project” in the February 2020 issue of Population Health Management.

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Meet Our Team 

Michael Miedema, MD, MPH

Michael Miedema, MD, MPH

Director, Nolan Family Center for Cardiovascular Health

Dr. Michael Miedema is director of the Nolan Family Center for Cardiovascular Health at Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation and director of cardiovascular prevention at Minneapolis Heart Institute®. Dr. Miedema obtained his medical degree and completed a cardiovascular fellowship at the the University of Minnesota Medical School and also has a master’s degree in public health from the Harvard School of Public Health. He is a leading national expert in cardiovascular prevention. He serves as an Associate Editor for the digital content for the Prevention Section of the American College of Cardiology. He served on the executive review committee for the 2018 ACC/AHA Cholesterol Guidelines, and was a member of the 2019 ACC/AHA Guidelines Committee for the Primary Prevention of cardiovascular disease.

Thomas Knickelbine, MD, FACC, FSCAI, FSCCT

Thomas Knickelbine, MD, FACC, FSCAI, FSCCT

Director, Lipid Research

Dr. Thomas Knickelbine is director of lipid research at Minneapolis Heart Institute®, where he has actively practiced cardiology since 1996. He is co-director of HeartScan Minnesota®, which he founded in 1999 and helped pioneer the initial calcium scoring program in the state of Minnesota. He has published multiple abstracts, presentations and papers surrounding the need for early detection and optimal treatment of coronary artery plaque. Dr. Knickelbine is board certified in cardiovascular disease and cardiovascular CT and has Level III training in cardiac and peripheral CT. His special interests include preventive cardiology and lipid management, coronary calcium scoring, echocardiography, diagnostic imaging, and coronary angiography.

Courtney Jordan Baechler, MD, MS

Courtney Jordan Baechler, MD, MS

Medical Director, Emerging Science Centers

Dr. Courtney Jordan Baechler serves as medical director for the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation’s emerging science centers including prevention, women’s cardiovascular research and global outreach. Dr. Jordan Baechler obtained her medical degree and completed a cardiovascular fellowship at the University of Minnesota Medical School. She also completed the National Institute of Health Physician Scientist Track where she obtained a master’s in epidemiology and public policy from the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. Prior to this role she served as assistant commissioner for health improvement for the State of Minnesota and vice president of the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing at Allina Health. She has served on the national prevention committee for the American College of Cardiology and currently serves on the MN Department of Health Statewide Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Committee.

Susan White, RDN

Susan White, RDN

Clinical Program Lead for Cardiovascular Health

Susan White is a registered dietitian nutritionist and serves as the administrative and program lead for prevention and women’s heart health at the Minneapolis Heart Institute®. She is adept at simplifying complex nutrition messages found in the news or research into practical tips for improving heart health and frequently gives community presentations.

Gretchen Benson, RDN, CDCES

Gretchen Benson, RDN, CDCES

Program Director, Nolan Family Center for Cardiovascular Health

Gretchen Benson oversees the center’s operational strategy including investigator-initiated research studies, professional and community education. As a dietitian and certified diabetes care and education specialist, she has research interests in nutrition, behaviors and population health. She currently serves on the American Diabetes Association’s professional practice committee tasked with updating the Standards of Care in Diabetes, as well as the MN Department of Health Statewide Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Committee.

Questions? Reach out to us.

Any Gift, Big or Small, has a Significant Impact on People’s Lives