Heart attacks occur at a moment’s notice, necessitating action to keep results from becoming fatal, and Roger White experienced that firsthand last March when he was revived three times before slipping into a coma for 11 days following an attack. Once his immediate danger passed, however, the paradigm shifted to “what now”; and Memorial Hermann Greater Height’s cardiac rehab program has helped him answer that age-old question.
MHGH’s cardiac rehab consists of a 12-week heart program geared towards patients who have had a major cardiac event, such as an angioplasty, stints or in White’s case, a heart attack. The CDC estimates 790,000 Americans experience heart attacks each year; and while interventions exist to clear blocked arteries, more can be done to improve future heart health, such as cardiac rehab. The medically-supervised program shown to reduce the risk of re-hospitalization has already aided White and many others.
“I’m definitely eating a little better now. I don’t eat a lot of fried food, and I really try to watch what I eat,” said White, 60. “I owe [my recovery] all to rehabilitation, and that program [at MHGH] really taught me how to exercise, too.”
According to Bernice Ware, BSN, RN, Clinical Manager of Cardiac Rehabilitation at Memorial Hermann Greater Heights Hospital, the cardiac rehab program lessens the need for cardiac medications and encourages a return to work following a heart-related illness. Patients are fitted for a heart monitor, and visit MHGH three times per week for a check-up.
Upon initial visitation, doctors conduct a preliminary assessment, from which data is derived to personalize an exercise and diet program best-suited for helping each patient create a healthier future.
“There are no two patients doing the same thing, and we don’t turn our patients loose to simply exercise on their own,” Ware said.
MHGH’s Cardiac Rehabilitation Center guides patients through each exercise, and will typically have patients go through at least four different exercises to provide a full-body workout coupled with a cardio component during each visit.
The hospital also offers classes for patients as part of the program, such as one-hour heart-heathy eating classes taught by a resident dietician, as well as a class on the benefits of cardiac medication taught by a pharmacist.
“It’s not often you get a pharmacist to talk to you for an hour, but they do that for our patients,” Ware said. “We try to make [the program] informative, and when [patients] are exercising, we try to make it as enjoyable and fun as we can.”
Until speaking with a professional and witnessing an increase in endurance or completing of tasks unmanageable prior to the cardiac event, Ware said many patients remain unaware – or skeptical – of how the program can assist in post-event health. White is a living testament.
“I think the last time I had exercised before this was playing football in junior high. I didn’t think I had to do that anymore,” he said with a hearty laugh.
Ware added cardiac rehabilitation can also strengthen the heart, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and even decrease depression for those battling rampant stress.
“[Roger] didn’t really get the benefits of exercise and how big of a role in plays in your heart health until after he had his heart attack, and came in to do [cardiac rehab],” she said. “He was skeptical about it initially, but he’s all in now. You’ve got to commit to coming on a regular basis.”
And commit, White has. Through the personalized workout schedule created for his post-attack prevention, he has dropped about 40 pounds since the attack .
“I’ll tell you what, I probably feel better today than before I had the heart attack, and I feel more confident about a lot of things,” he said.