Healthy Heart Programs

  • February 01, 2018
  • David J. Bilinsky

Cardiac rehabilitation with heart

♫ Don’t Mess With My Heart.♫ 

– Music and Lyrics by will.i.am, Fergie, George Pajon, Jr.
and Printz Board and recorded by The Black Eyed Peas.

I have taken a break from work this year due to unexpected cardiac issues. Fortunately, in the progress of treatment, I received a referral to the Healthy Heart Program at St. Paul’s hospital, and as Robert Frost once said: “And that has made all the difference...”

Recognizing that just surviving any type of a cardiac incident is extremely fortunate, the next best step is to receive a referral to a cardiac rehab program. These medically supervised healthy heart programs exist in community centres, hospitals, YMCAs and other locations. They all share some common attributes.

Principally there are three important components to these programs:

  • Exercise: a program that is tailored to you, comprising cardio work, weight training and stretching intended to strengthen and improve your heart function;
  • Education: on topics such as reducing risk factors such as stress, quitting smoking, the causes of heart failure and heart attacks and the importance of diet in reducing risk; and
  • Counselling and Supervision: by exercise and kinetic experts, nurses, cardiologists and residents, dieticians and more. 

There are any number of positive benefits from attending one of these programs. One important one is realizing that you are on a journey that is being shared by many others, allowing you an opportunity to meet and discuss concerns with those who have empathy and understanding of what you are feeling and experiencing. 

Another is the team effort. Yours is not a journey that is being taken alone. The entire program is medically supervised and monitored: the healthy heart staff are there to gently encourage, support, advise, cajole and otherwise help you get on the right path in terms of supporting your heart and your life.

A third is improving your quality of life. Improving your activities of daily living is valuable; providing you with hope moving forward after a cardiac event is priceless.

Like many other things, what you get out of the program reflects what you put in. It is a demonstrated way to begin a safer heart exercise program and maintain a healthier lifestyle by making positive life changes within a supportive, positive atmosphere. 

Who can benefit from such a program? The American Heart Association advises that cardiac rehab may benefit you if you have such conditions as:

What kind of exercises are included? From my experience, you start with the importance of a proper warm up and dynamic stretches, followed by 30 minutes of cardio (stationary bikes, treadmills, rowing machines, elliptical machines and others). This is then followed by a brief relaxation period then either 15-30 minutes of stretching or weight training, depending on your situation. A brief cool-down and stretching session follows. Finally, you conclude with an education session that can include topics such as risk factors, cholesterol, heart failure, stress, diet and more.

You don’t wish just anyone to mess with your heart. This journey of recovery is started with a doctor’s referral and a stress test. “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” – Robert Frost.