Exercise by prescription

Health & Fitness / February 16, 2017

Adjusting to life with heart disease

The heart is, by far, one of the stronger muscles in our body, working tirelessly to pump blood through our circulatory system. But what happens when that muscle’s performance is subpar? It is not as uncommon as you might think. According to the American Heart Association, 90 percent of women have one or more risk factors for heart disease. So it is imperative to monitor determinants such as blood sugar, diet and exercise (health numbers), especially after being diagnosed with heart disease.

“Women traditionally don’t have the same symptoms as men. They are not what most consider ‘traditional’ symptoms,” said charge nurse Phyllis Selph of CHI St. Vincent’s Cardiac Rehabilitation Center. She warns that fatigue and pain between your waist and ears are the more significant signs of cardiac distress.

CHI St. Vincent’s Cardiac Rehabilitation Center offers services specially designed to help patients adjust to life with heart disease by focusing on exercise and education. Patients enrolled in the monitored program are recovering from a number of different cardiac procedures, including heart attacks, valve replacements, and blockages. They each receive personalized care and help developing a personalized program.

Nurse manager David Long affectionately describes their work as “prescribed exercise.”

“The program includes 36 visits focused on education related to cardiac disease, and exercise tailored to individual needs,” said Long.

Patients can expect a nonjudgmental environment with positive peer interactions, dietary assistance, educational information regarding future risks

St. Vincent's Hot Springs Cardiac Rehab employee Phyllis Selph.

St. Vincent’s Hot Springs Cardiac Rehab employee Phyllis Selph.

with heart disease and exercise treatment.

Patients spend time during their first visit one-on-one with a physical assistant. They undergo a physical screening and the staff collects a detailed family history. The subsequent meetings are set up classroom-style, where part of the time is spent learning about how to monitor things like cholesterol and blood pressure, and the rest exercising.

“At any time we have 80 people enrolled in the program,” Selph said. In order to keep class sizes small, they offer multiple classes each day. Four nurses make up the staff that supervises the classes. Each nurse is responsible for five patients, and two nurses supervise each class.

Patients also meet monthly with the dietitian on staff to learn about heart healthy eating habits.

Once a patient graduates from the program, they have the choice to either continue treatment in the unmonitored program or develop an exercise and dietary plan with the staff to begin working independently. Either way, maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle is a necessity after completing the program.

The cardiac rehab has operated for 26 years, and staffers remain extremely diligent in their work. This is the only nationally certified cardiac rehab in Hot Springs, and two staff members are also nationally certified. The exercise program is based on progression, so patients start with what they can handle and work toward the intensity level of a “good hike, or a game of tennis,” Selph says.

Heart disease has no singular cause. Some forms of the disease are caused by

Phyllis Selph works with Dan Dilieto at St. Vincent's Hot Springs Cadiac Rehab.

Phyllis Selph works with Dan Dilieto at St. Vincent’s Hot Springs Cadiac Rehab.

buildup of fatty substances, called plaque, in the inner lining of the artery. Complications arise when the plaque builds up to the point where it completely blocks the blood. Other forms can be attributed to family history and low activity levels.

Studies suggest that women are a higher risk of heart disease, especially women of color. Cardio- vascular disease kills nearly 50,000 African-American women annually. Doctors link the cause to a genetic predisposition to salt sensitivity, and higher rates of obesity and diabetes within the African-American community. As for Latinas, heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women, and they are more likely to develop cardiovascular issues 10 years prior to women of other ethnicities.

Hear attacks make up only a portion of reported cases of heart dis- ease. Other abnormalities including valve problems, arrhythmias, and congestive heart failure are various forms of the deadly disease. Preventive measures may be taken to lower one’s risk of developing a form of heart disease. Women who do not smoke tobacco, regularly monitor their health numbers, eat healthy and stay active are far less likely to develop heart disease.

For more information about CHI St. Vincent’s Cardiac Rehabilitation Center visit http://www.chistvin- cent.com/our-clinics/chi-st-vin-cent-hot-springs-cardiac-rehabilitation-services-heart-center or call 501-622-2112.

Photography by Richard Rasmussen

Grace Brown

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