Love Your Heart

Today’s topic is about caring for your heart and Cardiac Rehab, a supervised exercise and educational program to help patients strengthen their hearts and lead healthier lives. While most athletes are not concerned about their heart health, there are many athletes that have heart problems. Exercising does not outdo a bad diet or other poor lifestyle choices. Even marathon runners are seen in Cardiac Rehab.

Most health insurances pay for Cardiac Rehab following heart attacks, coronary artery bypass surgery (CABG), cardiac stent placement, heart valve surgery, and heart transplants. It is also covered for patients with significant congestive heart failure. Health care providers involved in Cardiac Rehab include physical therapists, nurses, exercise physiologists, dietitians, and cardiologists.

Cardiac Rehab had been shown to decrease mortality rates, decrease hospital admissions, and increase quality of life. However, data shows that only 19% of eligible patients in the U.S. participate in Cardiac Rehab. Why is this!? There are many factors including patient time constraints, the educational level of the patient, and patient motivation.

Instead of being concerned about what others do, lets focus on what we can do for ourselves in preventing heart conditions. There are many risk factors for cardiac problems. Some of these we cannot change such as our gender, age, and family history. However, there are many risk factors we can change including our diet, weight, exercise, smoking, and stress. A diet for maximal heart health is similar to a general, healthy diet - emphasize an abundance of fruits and vegetables, decrease salt/sodium consumption, swap butter with olive oil, eat more whole grains, and have fish regularly instead of red meat.

As for stress, many of us do not realize the impact it makes on our health. It is much harder to measure than some of the other risk factors. Stress is also sometimes one of the hardest variables for people to overcome. We have to work on managing our response to stressful situations and letting go of the things we cannot control.

Finally, learning how to handle cardiac emergencies is essential. Heart attacks present in a variety of ways and symptoms can be pain, pressure, or discomfort in the chest, jaw, neck, shoulders, or arms (left more common than right). The best step to take when a heart attack is suspected is to call 911. This will alert medical staff immediately instead of waiting until you get the hospital. The sooner the hospital is alerted about the incident, the faster they can get you the care you need. This is especially important if you live in a rural area and the hospital nearest to you does not perform heart surgeries.

No one wants to be in Cardiac Rehab, but we make millions of choices throughout our lives - make the right ones your heart. It works hard for you. 

The above information is from my knowledge as a physical therapist, as well as the Vermont Cardiac Network 2018 Spring Conference.

Love Your Heart and Love Your Mom, too! Happy Mother's Day, Mom! You are the best!!