Steamboat Springs If you have a heart condition or have suffered a heart attack, you may think you are not able to resume your favorite activities. The truth is that many people with heart conditions can and do enjoy active, productive lives after participating in a program called cardiac rehabilitation.
Steamboat Springs resident Bob Lish knows from experience that an active lifestyle is possible after surgery. Lish started cardiac rehab at Yampa Valley Medical Center in 2011 after surgery removed a blockage in his coronary artery.
“My physician, Dr. Will Baker, encourages me to stay with the cardiac rehab program,” Lish said. “I like coming to cardiac rehab. It is such a low-key atmosphere, and Susan Cowan is very encouraging.”
Cowan is the longtime coordinator of the program.
“Cardiac rehab is the management of risk factors that result in a cardiac event or coronary disease,” Cowan said. “Risk factors include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, being overweight, stress and inactivity.”
Since 1990, YVMC’s program has improved the physical and emotional health of people with heart problems. Individuals who can benefit from cardiac rehab include those who have had chest pain, a heart attack, heart surgery, high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol levels or diabetes.
The YVMC program takes a multidisciplinary approach to treatment. The team includes:
■ A cardiologist in conjunction with family physicians
■ A nurse with exercise expertise
■ An occupational therapist
■ A registered dietician
■ A counselor
■ A massage therapist
■ A certified acupuncturist
Cardiac rehab helps patients improve their quality of life while learning how to reduce the risk of another cardiac event. The program also can help prevent an existing heart condition from getting worse.
Participants learn how to make changes in their diet to lose weight, improve their cholesterol profile and lower their blood pressure. They also get assistance with smoking cessation.
“Almost everyone with heart disease can benefit from some type of cardiac rehab,” Cowan said. “Cardiac rehabilitation is an option for people of all ages with many forms of heart disease.”
Each patient receives a comprehensive medical evaluation by the professional rehabilitation team. An individualized lifestyle plan is developed to reduce risk factors associated with heart disease based on the patient’s ability to make lifestyle changes.
Supervised exercise sessions evaluate a patient’s heart condition, speed recovery and improve endurance. The team also provides education, counseling and support to help patients understand their heart conditions and find ways to reduce the risk of future heart problems.
“It is not just rehab, it is the ongoing process of staying healthy,” Cowan said. “During the program, patients benefit from the interaction with other patients. They learn from each other and support each other during the rehab process.”
Once the initial rehab is completed, patients have the opportunity to continue a maintenance program using the YVMC cardiac rehab gym.
“With ongoing treatment, we help patients achieve a level of confidence and activity they may not achieve on their own,” Cowan said. “We have patients who come in to exercise and continue to learn from us long after their initial rehab process is finished.”
Lish is committed to continuing his cardiac rehab exercise visits.
“It is a rewarding program because I have seen results,” he said. “My numbers have remained good — my blood pressure, weight and cholesterol. And I am able to ski again.”
The YVMC cardiac rehab program can be reached at 970-871-2377.
Rosie Kern is communications specialist at Yampa Valley Medical Center. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.