ó Last summer Ted DíEsposito, a retired charter fishing
boat captain, wasnít feeling right. He was short of breath
and his energy level was way down. He noticed a burning
sensation on the back of his throat.
with coronary artery disease, the Islamorada, Fla., resident
had a stent placed in one of his arteries to restore blood
flow to the heart. Though his stay at South Miami Hospital was
only overnight, his recovery was far from over.
now 66, began cardiac rehabilitation at Mariners Hospitalís
Wellness Center a few weeks later and he considers it a
blessing. "I feel like Iím 40 again," he said.
rehab, a supervised, comprehensive program of exercise,
nutrition and lifestyle modification, is often prescribed to
patients who have had heart surgery or a major cardiac
problem. It is credited for preventing further coronary issues
and helping patients change unhealthy habits.
for example, lost more than 25 pounds and about four inches
off his waist. He gave up carbs and added exercise to his
daily routine. All this happened, he added, because he got off
on the right footing when he was recovering from the stent
someone there with you helping you along, so itís very
reassuring," he said. "You donít worry that youíre
going to overdo it."
typical cardiac rehabilitation program offered at area
hospitals lasts 12 weeks and includes twice or thrice-a-week
exercise sessions, meetings with a nutritionist and other
healthcare specialists, including physical and occupational
therapists, psychologist or psychiatrist and, of course, a
cardiologist. The goal is to help patients maximize cardiac
function as well as reverse their symptoms.
patientís ability and functionality are assessed at the
beginning of the program. Under the supervision of an exercise
physiologist and the help of monitoring devices to keep track
of various vital signs, a progressive exercise program is
designed for each person, with the hopes of building fitness
and strength ó as well as lifelong exercise habits.
are also nutrition and smoking cessation classes, counseling
on a patientís specific heart condition and sessions that
educate a patient about stress and anxiety management.
really a way of teaching the patient how to change their
lifestyle and should be considered part of treatment just like
taking medicine," said Dr. Harry Aldrich, chief of
cardiovascular services and medical director of the
Echocardiography and Stress/EKG Lab at South Miami Hospital.
"Completing the program helps patients live longer and
cardiac rehab is not prescribed nearly enough as it should.
National studies show that only about 30 percent of eligible
patients attend a cardiac rehab program, even as more
hospitals offer them and cardiologists tout the advantages of
monitored exercise, lifestyle improvements and controlling
heart-related risk factors.
been around for a while, but thereís still a lack of
awareness from the public at large," said Dr. Sharon
Andrade-Bucknor, medical director of cardiac rehab at the
University of Miami Hospital. "There are also a lot of
physicians who donít even know who might qualify for such a
program and are therefore not making the referrals."
insurances cover 36 sessions of cardiac rehab for most heart
conditions or cardiac procedures, including patients who have
had heart surgery, heart attacks, stent placement, angina
pectoris, balloon angioplasty, pacemaker and other coronary
ailments. If cardiac rehab is not prescribed during a hospital
stay, Andrade-Bucknor suggests a patient ask her doctor if she
is a good candidate.
must play a role in their own healthcare and be informed of
what is available," she added.
people also take advantage of cardiac rehab because of a lack
of insurance coverage or difficulty with transportation, since
the program requires the patient to be at the hospital several
times a week. In addition, rehab programs are particularly
underutilized by older patients because of a misunderstanding
of its benefits.
people, said Dr.Nirat Beohar, director of the cardiac
catheterization lab at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami
Beach, Fla., believe they are too old for such programs.
contrary, "older patients receive the same benefits as
younger patients ó a great improvement in their quality of
life," he said
programs also offer participants an informal support group of
like-minded people. "Itís similar to A.A.," Beohar
added, referring to Alcoholics Anonymous. "It keeps
people motivated to continue once they finish the
cardiac rehab proved to be a life changer. His attitude about
food and exercise ó he had never been on a treadmill ó has
changed, as have his habits. Though he "graduated"
from the Mariners Hospital program, he continues using its
wellness center to exercise several times a week.
actually look forward to going," he said. "Itís
made me feel better, not just physically but also