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Rehabbing Injured Hearts

This year, nearly 800,000 Americans will have a heart attack and another 550,000 will receive a diagnosis of heart failure.

Surprisingly, the vast majority will ignore one of their best options for successfully recovering their health: a carefully-designed blend of exercise therapy, education and support called cardiac rehabilitation.

Numerous studies show those who participate in cardiac rehabilitation have lower rates of death and a higher quality of life, including more energy, lower rates of depression and a more successful recovery.

"The data is clear: cardiac rehabilitation helps people live longer and do better," explains Jesus Vera, MD, a board-certified interventional cardiologist at St. Jude. "Research has even documented a direct correlation between the number of cardiac rehab sessions and a patient's outcome: mortality falls with each session completed."

Giving hearts—and patients—a better future

St. Jude's comprehensive cardiac rehab program is designed to improve the health of anyone who has experienced a cardiac event, whether heart attack, heart transplant, stent placement, bypass surgery, heart failure, angina, or valve replacement.

Covered by both Medicare and commercial health plans, patients participate in two or three sessions a week for 12 weeks. During each hour-long session, advance-practice cardiac nurses and exercise physiologists guide patients through EKG-monitored exercise. Nutritional coaching, medication and symptom education, and stress management are other components offered by a multidisciplinary cardiac rehabilitation-certified team.

"The gains in strength and well-being are impressive, but so are the gains in confidence and vibrancy," explains Mel Leopoldo, MSN, RN, CCRP, Clinical Coordinator, who says many patients report feeling better after completing the program than they did before their heart event. "So often, fear, anxiety and depression follow a heart attack or surgery, and patients begin to put themselves on the sidelines. We help people understand that yes, you can energetically step back into life—and we'll help you."

So why doesn't everyone do the smart thing?

Surveys show that ignorance is the primary reason for not participating in cardiac rehabilitation: most people are unaware of the documented benefits. But a second obstacle is the "I can do it on my own" mindset which typically isn't successful. According to Mel, the emotional and psychological support provided by the cardiac team and other participants can play a significant role in rehabbing a heart.

"You're with people who have the same diagnosis, fears and challenges that you do," she says, explaining that participants often form friendships with staff and each other. "There is a level of expertise and encouragement here that simply isn't available in a gym surrounded by fit twentysomethings."

Experts in matters of the heart

From arrhythmias and heart disease, to valve disorders and hypertension, St. Jude's award-winning cardiac experts continue to raise the bar for patients across Southern California.

Repeatedly named one of America's top hospitals for cardiovascular care, St. Jude offers these services:

Advanced minimally-invasive care . Inside the St. Jude Medical Center Catheterization Lab, experienced electrophysiologists and interventional cardiologists are eliminating the need for open surgery. By threading a catheter through an artery to the heart, our experts are successfully treating even complex conditions—such as aortic valve replacement—through one small incision. This minimally-invasive approach is also being used to transform the treatment of atrial fibrillation: replacing surgery with a same-day procedure, while dramatically reducing complications and recovery times.

State-of-the-art cardiac surgery. St. Jude is home to one of the state's most sophisticated surgical settings, including a "hybrid" cardiovascular suite that combines 4D technology with both minimally-invasive interventions and traditional open-surgery techniques in the same procedure. The all-in-one, diagnosis-to-treatment suite incorporates numerous imaging modalities, from dynamic CT imaging to a biplane digital angiography system, while allowing the successful treatment of complex or formerly inoperable conditions.

Award-winning outcomes. Our commitment to improving patients' lives has resulted in some impressive quality awards and distinctions, including being named one of America's 100 Best Hospitals for Cardiac Care by Healthgrades. St. Jude is also recognized by U.S. News & World Report as one of the nation's highest performing hospitals in cardiac surgery and heart failure treatment, and is one of only ten hospitals in the state to be designated as a Center of Excellence in cardiac treatment by Blue Cross/Blue Shield.

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