Friday, February 12, 2010

Helping Heart Patients Grow Stronger

If you hurt your back, you would probably get physical therapy to speed up your recovery. But if you had a heart attack, would you know to take advantage of a similar program called cardiac rehabilitation, which strengthens your heart muscle and lowers your risk of future heart attacks?

Cardiac rehabilitation – “cardiac rehab” for short – is an essential part of the recovery process for those who have had a heart attack, heart procedure or chest pain related to heart disease. Rehab consists of three phases, the first of which is usually completed by patients while they are recovering in the hospital. The second and third phases are carried out on an outpatient basis at cardiac rehabilitation programs like the one at Northwest Hospital.

The LifeBridge Health Phase II Cardiac Rehabilitation program is offers patients a customized exercise and diet plan. The program – run out of a new, state-of-the-art facility – is equipped with three flat screen TVs, a comfort station, the latest exercise machines and continuous heart monitoring equipment to ensure patients are exercising safely. In addition, the program offers stress management and other classes focused on risk factor reduction. An on-site dietitian provides diet and nutritional counseling, and patients can bring in their favorite recipes to their rehab sessions for the dietitian to make them heart healthy.

Participating in a Phase II cardiac rehab program lowers the risk for cardiac-related death by up to 25 percent, according to studies reviewed by the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation in 2007. In other words, about one in four heart patients could have prevented an early death if they had only gone through Phase II.

“Many patients don’t realize just how important Phase II is to the recovery process,” says Lisa Gerberg, R.N., program manager of Cardiac Rehabilitation. “Some feel that they are too weak and tired to exercise. However, we have equipment that allows us to help virtually any patient – even those who can’t hold themselves upright – get the kind of exercise that benefits the heart.”

“Patients who complete Phase II are less likely to have future heart emergencies,” says cardiologist Andrew M. Barnstein, M.D., medical director of LifeBridge Health Cardiac Rehabilitation. “As an added bonus, they are healthier, more active and have fewer joint problems as a result of their exercise. Those are huge benefits for an investment of an hour’s time just three times a week.”

In Phase III, patients can continue their exercise program at LifeBridge Health & Fitness, where a team of fitness specialists leads exercise sessions three times a week.

“Outpatient cardiac rehab really becomes a part of our patients’ social support after a heart event,” continues Barnstein. “We see improvements in their energy levels, emotional well-being and overall state of health. Our patients actually like coming here.”

For more information about the LifeBridge Health Cardiac Rehabilitation Program, call 410-601-WELL.

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