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February 18, 2009 > How Do You Mend a Broken Heart?

How Do You Mend a Broken Heart?

Washington Hospital Offers Cardiac Rehabilitation Program

Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States. Yet, according to the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology, a medically supervised program of cardiac rehabilitation - also called cardiac rehab - can significantly improve the chances of survival for patients with heart disease.

To focus national attention on cardiac rehab's contribution to improved health for people with heart disease or with risk factors for developing heart disease, hospitals and rehabilitation centers around the country are recognizing National Cardiac Rehabilitation Week. "Many people simply aren't aware of the benefits of cardiac rehabilitation," says Washington Hospital's Cardiac Rehabilitation Program Manager Phyllis Fiscella.

"The benefits of cardiac rehab are improved health and strength, stress reduction, increased confidence, reduced risk of future heart problems and a better quality of life," she adds. "Our caring staff provides patients with support and motivation, as well as with instruction in safe exercise methods and counseling in making lifestyle changes, such as choosing heart-healthy foods and managing blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes."

Started in 1985, the Cardiac Rehab Program at Washington Hospital can be helpful for patients with a variety of heart conditions, such as:
* Recent heart attack
* Cardiomyopathy (enlarged heart)
* Angina (chest pain due to clogged heart arteries)
* Coronary artery bypass surgery
* Heart valve repair or replacement surgery
* Heart transplant
* Balloon angioplasty or coronary stent implants

"We currently have about 115 people - both men and women - participating in our program," Fiscella notes. "The majority of them have coronary artery disease and have had an intervention such as bypass or heart valve surgery, balloon angioplasty or stent implants. Some of the patients have had heart attacks. Others have angina or cardiomyopathy. Over the years, we have even had three post-heart transplant patients participate."

The Cardiac Rehab Program offers exercise classes on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays in a state-of-the-art gym. Patients are monitored and supervised by registered nurses and exercise physiologists. In addition to providing each participant with an individualized treatment plan for exercise and lifestyle modifications, the program offers referrals to smoking cessation programs and access to a national support group called Mended Hearts.

"The Southern Alameda Chapter of Mended Hearts was actually started at Washington Hospital by the Cardiac Rehab staff and several Cardiac Rehab patients over 20 years ago," Fiscella says. "The Mended Hearts members provide education, regular social events and emotional support to patients with heart disease and their families. Some members visit patients who are hospitalized after heart surgery, heart attack or stent placement to offer support and encouragement during this stressful time."

Many insurance plans will cover the cost of Cardiac Rehab for up to 12 weeks after a recent event such as bypass or heart valve surgery, heart attack, stent placement, angina or heart transplant. Patients who wish to continue once their insurance stops paying have the option of participating in the program on a "private pay" basis. The cost per visit is $8.50. That same "private pay" option is available to patients who have cardiac risk factors but have not yet been diagnosed with cardiovascular disease.

A physician referral is required to enroll. For more information about the Cardiac Rehab Program, call (510) 494-7022.

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