Begin a Cardiac Rehabilitation Program For a Heart Healthy Lifestyle
By Maggie Lichtenberg
Two months after my open-heart surgery, through my cardiologist's referral, I was cleared to begin a physician-sponsored cardiac rehabilitation program - a program of exercise and risk-factor education for individuals recovering from serious heart procedures and heart disease.
Some patients are healed enough to begin sooner, some later. The gym facility where I live in Santa Fe, NM, called the Center for Living Well, is spaciously housed in the basement of our one hospital. In the last thirty years, thousands of cardiac rehabilitation programs have sprung up far and wide in the U.S. alone, all featuring similar characteristics.
In my book, The Open Heart Companion: Preparation and Guidance for Open-Heart Surgery Recovery (Open Heart Publishing, 2006) I advise, "systematically increase your walking every day, to the point where you can visualize and look forward to the strength retraining and aerobic stamina offered in a good cardiac rehabilitation program. Once your doctor finally approves you for cardiac rehab, you will discover what may be a new experience, or the reawakening of an old pleasure -- going to the gym!"
Beginning a cardiac rehabilitation program is truly an exciting moment. I was finally up to moving my body for real. I knew I had made tangible progress or I wouldn't be there. I was assigned an exercise physiologist, or case manager. After a general orientation (completing a detailed questionnaire, learning to take my pulse, oxygen usage and rhythm monitoring guidelines) I was given a personal exercise worksheet. Preferably three times a week for one hour, I was to track my gentle progress forward in a customized program -- using the treadmill, bike, stairs, UBE machine (aerobic ergometer), and so on. Adding weight training to the regimen was to come later, at the discretion of my case manager. In addition, numerous classes (stretching, therabands, free weights) and support groups (smoking cessation, stress management, osteoporosis and diet education) were all available in the package. Once a month there was an "Ask the Cardiologist Q
About The Author
Maggie Lichtenberg, PCC, a recent open-heart surgery thriver, is an open heart coach to heart patients and their loved ones, a professional speaker, and frequently published author. To subscribe to her free online newsletter, Heart To Heart, send a blank email message to HeartToHeart-On@zines.webvalence.com. To learn more about Maggie's free phone support group and other programs go to http://www.openheartcoach.com.
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