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February 10, 2012 > Fremont Resident Has His Heart in the Right Place

Fremont Resident Has His Heart in the Right Place

Washington Hospital's Cardiac Rehabilitation Program Keeps Him Going Strong

Doug Taylor's heart attack changed his life. That was 1986 and he was a two-pack-a-day smoker, but he quit cold turkey the moment he received his diagnosis. Two years later he was offered the opportunity to retire early from his pressure-filled job as a publications manager at Peterbilt Motors Company, so he took it for the sake of his health. And when he had another heart episode soon after that, he followed his physician's advice and joined the Cardiac Rehabilitation Program at Washington Hospital, where he has been going three days a week ever since.

"I've only missed a few times in 23 years," Taylor said. "It really keeps me going."

He credits the Cardiac Rehabilitation Program with helping him learn how to live a more heart healthy lifestyle after his heart attack through exercise and a healthier diet. Now he enjoys having a regular exercise routine as well as the companionship he receives through the friendships he's developed with others in the program.

"I started exercising and getting in better shape with the help of the program," Taylor explained. "I lost some weight. I also learned how to eat better. I used to love having a cheeseburger every day for lunch, but that all changed after my heart attack."

Next week is National Cardiac Rehabilitation Week (February 12-18), designed to focus attention on the important benefits of rehabilitation for people with heart problems. This year's theme is "Cardiac Rehabilitation: Experience a Change of Heart."

"Cardiac rehabilitation can help people live longer and reduce their chances of having another heart attack," said Phyllis Fiscella, a registered nurse and manager of the Cardiac Rehabilitation Program at Washington Hospital. "The program offers lifestyle management with a focus on exercise and nutrition."

The goal of Cardiac Rehabilitation is to help people return to as active a lifestyle as possible after a cardiac event like a heart attack or surgery, according to Fiscella. Benefits include weight loss, education on lifestyle changes, management of risk factors, emotional support, and improvements in stamina and strength so participants can get back to regular activities like work, hobbies, and enjoying time with family and friends.

Exercise and Eat Right

The program provides a one-hour exercise session that includes 10 minutes of warm up; 30 minutes of aerobic conditioning; strength training; and balance, stretching, and relaxation exercises. The sessions are held Monday, Wednesday, and Friday in the Cardiac Rehabilitation gym, located at 2500 Mowry Avenue in the Washington West building.

"It's a big, beautiful facility with plenty of room to exercise," Taylor said. "They have treadmills, stationary bikes, rowing machines, stair climbers, and machines for the upper body. Everything you need."

Participants exercise under close supervision by a registered nurse and exercise specialist. Each participant has an individual care plan and is assessed every session for progress. Blood pressure, heart rate/rhythm, and exercise intensity are carefully measured and the exercise prescription is progressed in a safe and systematic way. Progress is communicated to participants' physicians on a monthly basis.

The medical supervision is the major reason Taylor continues with the program instead of joining a gym, he said. A few years ago he collapsed while exercising. His heart was racing more than 200 beats a minute. He was taken directly to the Washington Hospital emergency room, where he was treated and released.

"I didn't worry because I knew I would get the care I needed," he said.

Registered dietitians from Washington Hospital provide counseling on how to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into participants' diets and reduce the amount of salt and unhealthy fat they eat, which contributes to high blood pressure and high cholesterol, two risk factors for heart disease.

"The nutrition education was really helpful," Taylor said. "My weakness is ice cream, but I don't eat that much anymore."

The program can also offer emotional support for people who are recovering from a heart attack or learning how to live with heart disease, Fiscella added. They get comfort from being with others who share their struggles and gain confidence as their physical health improves, she explained.

"Cardiac Rehabilitation benefits your physical health as well as your outlook on life, which really means a better quality of life," Fiscella said.

For Taylor it has become a regular part of his life.

To learn more about the Cardiac Rehabilitation Program and other Washington Hospital Heart Program services, visit

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