February is Heart Month

UnityPoint Health has some tips for your health

February is Heart Month. At UnityPoint Health our goal is to keep you young at heart and help you “Do What You Love.” Whether you recently have experienced a cardiac event or know someone who has, UnityPoint Health is here to help.

After a cardiac event, it can be nerve-racking to think about exercise again. How much exercise is too much? What’s an appropriate timeframe to wait before beginning exercise? What exercises are best for heart health? With lots of questions surrounding this topic, I wanted to spread the awareness of how important cardiac rehabilitation is, as heart patients work their way back into a regular exercise routine.

Benefits of cardiac rehabilitation

Following a heart attack or other cardiac event, patients are typically encouraged to participate in outpatient cardiac rehabilitation. These sessions are normally an hour and a half long, three days a week for about two months. Additionally, cardiac rehabilitation is covered by insurance and not limited to heart attacks.

Cardiac rehabilitation is also recommended after heart valve repair or replacement, heart or heart and lung transplant, chronic heart failure and more. While cardiac rehabilitation allows patients to start exercising again, it also helps prevent them from experiencing another heart event or being admitted back to the hospital.

Another benefit of cardiac rehabilitation is improved psychologic health. Structured exercise helps with the psychologic and physiologic consequences of cardiac illness. After a heart attack, patients often have an understandable component of depression, anxiety and fear to perform physical activity. Performing structured exercise in a monitored setting helps considerably to alleviate this concern.

What to expect in cardiac rehabilitation

Generally, cardiac rehabilitation sessions involve a brief warm-up and stretching period, followed by 30-40 minutes of aerobic exercise. This can involve treadmill, stationary bicycle, elliptical or rowing machines. Sometimes, resistance training is incorporated. Finally, the session ends with a cool-down period. Throughout these sessions, vital signs and heart electrical activity (EKG) are monitored and our team of amazing care givers are encouraging along the way.

After participating in cardiac rehabilitation for the determined period of time, our goal is to get heart patients to the point where they can move forward and begin exercising on their own.

Exercises best for heart health

After completing cardiac rehabilitation, we suggest continuing regular exercise to help in reducing the risk to future cardiac event, lowering blood pressure, improving lipid profiles, lowering weight and improving control of diabetes.

Aerobic activities, such as jogging are helpful, but even walking 30 minutes a day for five days a week is healthy and is associated with lower cardiovascular risk. Moderate weight lifting is protective as well. Ultimately, the exercise program and how hard one pushes one’s self should be tailored to the individual patient in consultation with the patient’s cardiologist and cardiac rehab team.

If you have questions about exercises to benefit your heart health, contact your primary care provider.

Jessica Meyer, CCRP RN, BS

Cardiac & Pulmonary Rehab

UnityPoint Health — Trinity Regional Medical Center

Calcium scoring: Should you have one?

Heart disease does not always include physical symptoms. A calcium scoring screening identifies plaque in your coronary arteries to helps assess your heart’s health. If you have two or more of the following risk factors, call to schedule a screening.

• You are 40-75 years old.

• You smoke or have secondhand smoke exposure.

• Your cholesterol level is greater than 200 mg/dl.

• You have been told your blood pressure is high.

• You have diabetes or need medicine to control your blood sugar.

• You live a sedentary lifestyle.

• You are overweight by 20 or more pounds.

• You father or brother had a heart attack before age 65.

Trinity Regional Medical Center offers calcium scoring, or heart screening, scans to discover heart disease faster for only $99. Call 515-574-6772 to schedule.