Survivors make lifesaving changes through Cardiac Rehabilitation Program

  • Wednesday, September 18, 2013

George Van Dyk finishes with a stationary bike and shifts to an elliptical machine as part of his twice-a-week workout at the Cardiac Rehabilitation Program gym at Summerville Medical Center (SMC). While sometimes reluctant to visit, he never regrets coming out. “It’s a matter of getting in the zone,” the 74-year-old says. “Once I get started, I have quite a bit of endurance with these machines.”
Trident Health offers the voluntary Cardiac Rehabilitation Program to all patients who have been hospitalized for a heart-related condition. That includes heart attack, coronary artery bypass surgery, congestive heart failure, heart-valve repair or replacement, coronary angioplasty or placement of a coronary stent. The intention is to help patients recover quickly while reducing the risk of heart disease and another cardiac crisis. Medicare encourages the program and covers the costs for its members.
The program includes 36 individualized exercise sessions that are completed at the Cardiac Rehab gym under medical supervision while the patient is hooked up to heart monitors. Participants ideally start as soon as the doctor allows, following release from the hospital.
Participants are also encouraged to attend educational classes taught by the nurses, exercise physiologist and registered dietitian on staff. Topics cover exercise, medications, stress, nutrition and conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes, all of which can increase the risk for heart disease. Those who attend the educational classes in addition to all 36 exercise sessions benefit the most.  “The heart’s a muscle, and it’s important to rebuild that muscle,” says Registered Dietitian Lauren Zimmerman.  “If we as a team can also encourage the patient to make just a few changes to their previous habits, then we have impacted the patient’s health and life for the better.”
Once participants complete the sessions, they can continue to use the program’s gym, currently for $40 a month. You don’t have to be a former patient to join, the Rehab facility is open to anyone in the community. Van Dyk has been working out here faithfully since he had triple bypass surgery 17 years ago. He says the boost his metabolism gets from the exercise and adjustments to  his eating habits helped him go from 285 to 164 pounds.
“I love the aha moment when patients become aware of what exactly is in the foods they are eating and how that impacts their health,” says Zimmerman, who emphasizes a heart healthy diet and offers strategies for grocery shopping, cooking and eating out.
Gene Phillips, 77, was caught by surprise when he had a heart attack and subsequent quadruple bypass at Trident Medical Center in April. Before that, he exercised regularly, often walking his dogs six miles a day. But his diet needed an overhaul. With Zimmerman’s help, he let go of bad habits, like putting salt in his beer, and favorite fatty foods, like Italian sausage. Now he uses pepper instead of table salt and eats egg substitute as well as lots of fresh fruit. “The classes about how you should eat - I wish they had taught that in high school or college.”
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For more information on Summerville Medical Center’s Cardiac Rehabilitation program, please call 843-832-5021.

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