Heart health daily focus for Cardiac Rehab

Cardiac RehabHeart health education and awareness is a daily focus for the team at Hamilton Healthcare System’s Cardiac Rehabilitation department.

Located inside the Hamilton Wellness Center, the Cardiac Rehabilitation program focuses on patients who have had a cardiac event, such as heart attack, heart catheterization, bypass surgery, stent placement or stable chest pain within the past year. Director David Rodriguez, Laurie Stewart, RN and Teressa Craig, LVN assists patients in adopting a heart healthy lifestyle to reduce the risk of complications from heart disease and increase work capacity.

The heart is a muscle, so one of the main areas of focus in rehabilitating the heart is exercise. HHS’s Cardiac Rehab team develop individualized exercise plans to fit the patient’s fitness level with appropriate modifications to accommodate limitations. Patients are assessed and monitored by telemetry while they exercise three days per week for 8 to 12 weeks. The program is closely monitored and patient progress is regularly reported to physicians

Through cardiac rehab patients are able to increase work capacity, lower blood pressure, slow heart rate, lower cholesterol levels and manage weight.

Maintaining the benefits through healthy heart habits after completion of the rehabilitation program is important. Hamilton Wellness Center offers LifeTrax, an individualized exercise program monitored by trained medical staff. Patients often advance from LifeTrax to an independent fitness program.

“Heart disease is not something that you can see,” says Rodriguez, who encourages everyone to take charge of their heart health early.

According to the American Heart Association, 80 percent of cardiac events and strokes are preventable. Rodriguez offers these tips to help prevent and manage heart disease:

  • Know your numbers - cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar and body mass index. Visit with your doctor annually and take medication as prescribed.
  • Find out your family history. Genetics play a big role in heart disease, says Rodriguez. While you can’t change your DNA, being aware of your risk is important in keeping your heart health and preventing a cardiac event.
  • Get moving. Physical activity is key to improving heart health. The AHA recommends thirty minutes a day, five times a week. If thirty minutes sounds daunting, divide it into two or three manageable segments of 10-15 minutes to experience the benefits.
  • Increase health food choices. Even small dietary changes can make a large impact on heart health, says Rodriguez. Try increasing variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, lean meats, nuts and legumes and non-tropical vegetable oils. Limit saturated fat, trans fat, sodium, red meat, sweets and sugar-sweetened beverages.
  • Quit smoking. Smoking is the most preventable cause of death in the US. Not only does smoking cause cancer, but it is linked to heart disease, stroke and other chronic illnesses, like COPD.
  • Fight stress with health habits. Stress tends to acerbate most chronic illnesses including heart disease. The good news is incorporating one or more of the health habits above can help reduce stress.

If you have had a cardiac event in the last year, ask your doctor if Cardiac Rehabilitation is right for you. Patients must qualify for cardiac rehab at Hamilton Healthcare System and be referred by a physician. Most insurances cover Cardiac Rehab.

Hamilton Healthcare System’s Cardiac Rehabilitation program is the only rural program in Texas certified by the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation. To maintain this certification, the program is regularly evaluated and must meet rigorous national guidelines. Patients can rest assured they are getting the best level of care.