Rehabilitating Hearts by Transforming Lifestyles

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Brandon Brooks at the Cardiac Rehabilitation Program

If you’ve had a heart attack, have heart disease or are at high risk of heart disease, your doctors have probably talked to you about changing your lifestyle. That is, eating healthier, exercising more and quitting smoking.

But how? If you’ve had a heart attack, can you exercise safely and how much is too much? What does a healthy diet look like? Years of bad habits don’t go away overnight.

Brandon Brooks knows this all too well. He was in his mid-50s when he had a heart attack.

Admittedly, he was not the picture of health. The Philadelphia radio reporter received three stents and an insurance-paid prescription for a healthier lifestyle. Brandon’s cardiologist strongly recommended he enroll in Jefferson’s Cardiac Rehabilitation Program at Methodist Hospital, the only nationally accredited center of its kind in Philadelphia.

“Whether you’ve just had a heart attack or have a strong family history of cardiovascular disease, cardiac rehabilitation can help,” says David Shipon, MD, FACC, preventative cardiologist and director of the newly renovated and expanded Cardiac Rehabilitation facility.

Cardiac rehabilitation improves patients’ cardiovascular health by providing stress management, exercise and nutritional and smoking cessation counseling to patients who have had a prior cardiac event. It also helps to reduce the risk factors, high blood pressure and body mass index (BMI) among them in at-risk patients.

Brandon was convinced but nervous and apprehensive.

“I’d just had a heart attack,” he says. “I didn’t know how much exercise my body could handle and what was safe to do.”

Brandon began a medically monitored outpatient program at Methodist Hospital three days a week. Over time his confidence and stamina improved, as did some of his eating habits. He had quit smoking a few years prior.

At the end of 36 weeks, Brandon transitioned to the maintenance part of the program and now goes to the rehab center two days a week to maintain his cardiovascular wellness.

“Cardiac rehabilitation reduces hospital readmissions and improves survival rates by approximately 34 percent,” adds Dr. Shipon.

When he started, Brandon could barely walk on the treadmill without feeling winded. Now he does 15 minutes on the elliptical machine, 10 to 20 minutes on the recumbent bike and walks or jogs a mile on the treadmill.

“The transformation has been amazing,” he says. “I could not have done it without the guidance of Dr. Shipon and the nurses and staff at the center. They have encouraged me and pushed me to better fitness. I feel great and am probably in the best shape of my adult life.”

Besides lowering blood pressure and BMI, cardiac rehabilitation can also ward off depression and psychosocial issues, which are common after a heart attack, stroke or heart disease diagnosis.

Jefferson’s Cardiac Rehabilitation Program draws patients from several city and suburban hospitals in the area. The Program is also one of only a handful in the country certified by The American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation.

To enroll, call 215-952-9186. Patients of any age may participate.

To make an appointment with a Jefferson physician, call 1-800-JEFF-NOW or request an appointment online.

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