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Cardiac Rehabilitation Week starts today

This is an excellent time to learn about heart disease and recovery options

February 12, 2012
Messenger News

"There are many things in life that will catch your eye, but only a few will catch your heart - pursue those." - Michael Nolan

I can say I have pursued things in life which have caught my heart. Some of those things include my husband (yes, I asked him out first), my children, my family and friends, my hobbies and career. I am a registered nurse of many years and have worked with countless patients suffering from heart disease, also known as coronary artery disease. The treatment of this disease holds a special place in my heart, as my father suffered and struggled with chest pain, multiple heart attacks and two heart bypass surgeries. He missed my high school graduation as he lay in an intensive care unit hospital bed because of a heart attack. He missed the birth of my three sons. My two daughters struggle to remember "Grandpa Bob." His life ended at age 67 when his heart was unable to withstand the repair of his ruptured abdominal aneurysm. His premature death left a void in my heart, maybe a catch in my heart, which motivates me to pursue my passion even more. That passion is working with heart patients through the Trinity Regional Medical Center Cardiac Rehabilitation Department.

What exactly is heart disease? Coronary artery disease is caused by a buildup of plaque within the arteries that provide the heart with blood. That process is referred to as atherosclerosis. A heart attack occurs when an unstable plaque ruptures, a blood clot forms and the heart artery is completely blocked. Damage to the heart muscle will occur. It is imperative for anyone who may be having a heart attack to seek medical attention. Lost time is lost heart. Chest pain is a common complaint most heart attack victims experience. The pain may originate in other areas as well, such as the back, shoulders, arms, jaw and neck. Other symptoms may include shortness of breath, nausea, sweating, anxiety and palpitations. Women many times experience fewer symptoms than men; most commonly back pain, weakness, fatigue, and shortness of breath. Heart attack patients are urgently taken to the "Cath Lab" where a coronary angiogram is performed to determine if blood flow can be re-established to the heart via stent placement or coronary artery bypass surgery. Those are the patients our department has the privilege of getting to meet.

Cardiac Rehabilitation is a medically supervised program that helps improve the health and well-being of people who have heart problems. It is about making lifestyle choices that improve heart and blood vessel health as recovery from heart attack, stent placement or bypass surgery progresses. These choices include stopping smoking, exercise, heart healthy nutrition, stress management, blood sugar control, healthy body weight and blood pressure management. We provide educational classes covering these topics for our patients and families three times a week for six weeks. Supervised heart-monitored exercise sessions are also an important part of the program. Psychosocial factors are assessed as well, and referrals made to the chaplain, social workers or physicians as needed. Each session is tailored specifically to meet the individual's needs.

Cardiac Rehab has its own designated week, Feb. 12-18; but Cardiac Rehab is actually an every day, every hour and every minute process for the patients we serve. It's all about decisions made for optimum well-being. An unfortunate heart event can serve as a motivating factor in choosing a healthier lifestyle. Unfortunately, cardiovascular disease continues to be the top cause of death in our country. Ideally, those loved ones surrounding our patients through family, friends and community will also learn how to reduce their heart disease risk factors. I would love to be able to update you next year with the news of a drastic drop in those affected with heart disease. That's a goal all of us can pursue and our hearts can catch.

Tami Davis a registered nurse affiliated with Trinity Cardiac Rehabilitation at Trinity Regional Medical Center.



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