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Local Doctors Stress Importance Of Cardiac Rehab Following Heart Attack

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - Jeannie Robertson knew she was having heart problems.

"I was sleeping more, I couldn't get my breath. I was having unusual heaviness in my arms. No real chest pain, and a lot of sweating," she said.

Her heart cath results were what she had feared.

"Definitely, they showed I was blocked. Three blockages," she said.

She ended up with bypass surgery, followed by cardiac rehab.

"It's hard on your legs," she said. "It tires you out. You sleep well at night, I'll tell you that."

This is a supervised set of exercises for people who have had a heart attack, bypass surgery, balloon angioplasty, stents, and other heart problems and procedures.

"These patients, understandably after these kinds of procedures, are nervous," said Dr. Michael Hagerty, an Allegheny Health Network cardiologist. "There is a risk in an unsupervised environment. I would not encourage my patients after having open heart surgery to just jump on a treadmill and just go for it."

It can be individualized to accommodate hip replacements, arthritis, and other issues.

"There is a way that this is done in a structured safe way. The blood pressure is monitored, the heart rate is monitored," he said.

The program last for 12 weeks, three days a week.

"Studies have shown the rates of depression are lower, the patient's physical activities are higher after an event, blood pressure is better, eating habits are better, patients live longer, readmission rates to hospital are lower," said Dr. Hagerty.

Studies also show it's greatly underused. One-in-three patients referred to cardiac rehab go to only one session. Barriers, such as full schedules, co-pays, distance, and lack of inpatient and outpatient coordination contribute to this.

Dr. Hagerty and his staff keep in close contact with their patients to offer encouragement and reinforcement.

"I just look at it like, it has to be done, and I have to do it, so do it and don't complain," says Jeannie. "My biggest hope is just to have a healthy heart, and stay that way, and encourage others."

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