Returning to the gym after a cardiovascular event, like a heart attack, can be intimidating or scary. A cardiac rehabilitation center, where patients exercise in a controlled environment alongside medically trained staff, can alleviate some of this fear.

Katy Smith, lead exercise physiologist for the Center for Fitness and Health at Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Center, knows first-hand the benefits of cardiac rehabilitation and how exercise can restore heart health. But, she says, it’s much more important to be proactive and take steps—literally — to prevent a cardiac event in the first place. Smith suggests at least 45 minutes of daily, light exercise on aerobic machines like a treadmill, elliptical or bicycle. She also recommends eating heart-healthy foods such as lean proteins and vegetables and following up with your physician regularly.

Rehab Basics

The Center for Fitness and Health looks like a standard gym with cardio equipment and weight training areas, but Shady Grove’s cardiac rehab facility offers much more than a workout. Its patients receive medically monitored, individualized exercise and education programs to prevent the progression of heart disease and improve quality of life after a heart attack, angioplasty, bypass surgery, angina or congestive heart failure.

“Some people may think they don’t need cardiac rehab because they already belong to a gym, but cardiac rehab is an outpatient medical facility with trained staff that can intervene and respond quickly in case of emergency,” said Smith. “All staff are Basic Life Support and Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support Certified so we can efficiently provide a high level of care, without delaying treatment of the patient. “

Typically, patients will come to the center three days a week and participate in monitored conditioning and strength training exercises. These sessions also include a health education component, which focuses on practical measures patients can incorporate into their lifestyles. The staff includes a multidisciplinary team of exercise physiologists, cardiologists, pulmonologists, registered nurses, dietitians and licensed psychologists.
Anne Hawthorn, a former patient of Shady Grove’s cardiac rehab program said, “I could not have rehabilitated my health on my own. Because of the care I received, I had the confidence to exercise. The staff became my accountability partners and became dear friends that I will always stay in touch with.”

Rehab Benefits

Patients say they find multiple benefits from cardiac rehab. Daily activities are easier, heart disease risk factors decrease and patients learn more about their heart health and how to take control of it. The staff at the center educate, counsel and support patients and their families.
“I would strongly encourage anyone to participate in the cardiac rehab program,” said Hawthorn. “The care I received saved my life and gave me a quality of life that I never imagined I would have again.”

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