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The ABCs of Cardiac Rehab

If you’ve recently had a heart attack or other heart-related condition, would you be interested in: dropping 10 pounds, lowering your cholesterol by 27 percent, slashing your triglycerides by a third and improving your blood pressure — all in two months?

That’s exactly what Shirley Fornal, 69, of Highland Heights, Ohio, did. Her secret? Cleveland Clinic’s Cardiac Rehabilitation Program.

“It’s given me a whole new perspective about the way I have to take care of myself,” explains the retired businesswoman and grandmother of 10.

Cardiac rehabilitation is designed to improve a patient’s overall health by identifying and reducing the risk factors that lead to cardiovascular disease, explains the program’s manager Mike Crawford, MS. “We work with patients who suffer from a variety of heart-related conditions to keep their disease from progressing; reduce their risk of a heart attack, stroke or future surgery; and improve their quality of life by reducing their symptoms.”

For Mrs. Fornal, it was having a stent procedure that led her to join the program in November 2008.

“Back then, I had a treadmill, but I didn’t use it,” Mrs. Fornal says. Now, she not only uses it on days she’s not going to cardiac rehab, but she also bikes, lifts weights and joined the YMCA’s Silver Sneakers® program with her husband, Joseph. 

Mrs. Fornal happily reports she is successfully managing her diabetes and feels terrific. And that is, in part, due to some valuable advice she learned through cardiac rehab classes.

“They say it over and over again: ‘You can’t take care of someone else if you don’t take care of yourself,’” she recalls. “I was so worried about everyone else all the time. Now, I know it’s OK to say, ‘I can’t handle that right now.’”

For Richard Del Roso, a 51-year-old engineer from Brecksville, Ohio, the program provided the tools he needed to lose 50 pounds, lower his cholesterol by 21 percent and slash his triglycerides by nearly half.

“What’s nice about cardiac rehab is that it’s just about following the guidelines,” says Mr. Del Roso, who joined the program after having a heart attack in 2007. “It really is the basic and straightforward [advice to] follow a sensible diet that has been preached to us since we were young.”

Mr. Del Roso still attends cardiac rehab twice a month because it helps him stay on track. He also invests an hour each night on the treadmill, either walking or running.

“There are so many things you can’t control, like your genetics and your family history,” he says. “So by eating right, exercising and taking your medications as your doctor prescribes, it does put a little bit of control back in your hands.”

For more information on Cleveland Clinic’s Cardiac Rehabilitation Program, call 800.890.2467.

7 Reasons to Try Cardiac Rehab

  • Participants have a 25 to 30 percent reduction in fatal heart events.
  • You’ll get a full medical evaluation, exercise test for safety and effectiveness, and a program designed to meet your specific goals.
  • You’ll work with the same staff member, who is a certified exercise specialist and certified in advanced cardiac life support, for the entire program.
  • You’ll have access to an on-staff dietitian.
  • The program is part of the Sydell & Arnold Miller Family Heart & Vascular Institute, ranked the No. 1 cardiac program since 1995 by U.S. News & World Report.
  • Because the program is integrated with our Preventive Cardiology Program, your physician can easily follow your progress. 
  • Your health is just that important!