Opelika native and retired Smiths Station school teacher, Judy Bryan, learned that there was something wrong with her heart during a routine physical with her primary care physician. An EKG revealed that she needed a double valve replacement. After a successful valve replacement in May 2015, Bryan began Cardiac Rehab at EAMC the following September. At Cardiac Rehab at EAMC, patients are prescribed an exercise program and receive education about disease management and prevention. The rehab prescription is designed to optimize a patient’s physical, psychological and social functioning. Cardiac rehab patients may stabilize, slow or even reverse the progression of the underlying disease process.
The Cardiac Rehab staff includes nurses, exercise physiologists, dietitians, and respiratory therapists.
Bryan “graduated” from Cardiac Rehab on January 18, after completing 12 weeks of rehab, attending sessions three times per week. “One of my biggest problems was balance,” Bryan says. “My doctor explained that participating in Cardiac Rehab would really help my balance. I was shocked by how much I learned about my heart and how to take care of it. Each week a nurse, exercise physiologist, dietitian or pharmacist came in and taught the group about different topics. I learned so much about heart health, how to exercise on my own and how to make moderate changes in my diet. Everything I learned was applicable.”
Jennifer Murphy, a nurse in Cardiac Rehab, explains that the benefits of cardiac rehab go far beyond exercise. “We prescribe a treatment plan for each patient with an exercise physiologist to meet each patient’s specific needs,” Murphy says. “Besides regular exercise and learning about heart health, each patient at Cardiac Rehab benefits from the social aspect of rehab as well. Speaking with other patients and realizing that they are not alone is a big part of healing after something like open heart surgery.”
According to the American Heart Association, lack of healthy eating, inactivity and stress are all major contributors to cardiac events. Murphy explains that throughout the 12- week rotation, the education at Cardiac Rehab helps patients learn how to do things on their own once they have graduated.
“When we educate patients about heart health, we emphasize the importance of taking small steps,” Murphy says. “It’s important not to start too quickly or try to change too many things at once. Adding any kind of activity to your life is a great way to start living a healthier lifestyle and setting realistic goals is important.”
Murphy also explains the importance of stress relief in heart health. “We live in an area where there are so many great ways to get outside and have fun,” Murphy says. “Going outside, walking, meditating, journaling and spending time with friends are all great ways to alleviate stress. It’s important to try different things until you find what works for you.”
“I have met so many wonderful people at Cardiac Rehab,” Bryan remembers. “This has become such a part of my routine and I will miss it greatly. I have gotten stronger and my balance has improved so much since starting the program last September. I have learned to make moderate changes in my diet and activity levels, and I feel confident that I can exercise on my own now. I am already making plans to join a gym and walk for 30 minutes, five times each week. Even though I’m sad to leave, I’m grateful for Cardiac Rehab and I feel much more confident about exercise and heart health than I did when I started.”