Take Steps Toward a Healthier Heart

April 01, 2015

What have you done for your heart lately? After all, it’s been pumping away for years, usually without complaint. But just because your heart is the strong, silent type, that doesn’t mean it can’t use some help. In fact, there are lots of things you can do to keep your heart working well, prevent problems from occurring and potentially add years to your life.

Whether you are recovering from a heart attack, managing a chronic condition that increases your risk for heart disease or just trying to improve your heart health, the Henry Ford Preventive Cardiology Program at Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital can help. The program offers a full range of services to help you prevent heart disease and progress toward a heart-healthy lifestyle. Two of these include cardiac rehabilitation services and the Prevention through Exercise and Education (PREVENT) Program.

“As we get older, it becomes more important to stay in good health,” says Barry Lewis, D.O., senior staff physician with Henry Ford West Bloomfield. “And if you have had heart problems, it’s even more important to get back to a healthy, active lifestyle and take steps to remain that way.”

Preventing heart problems

Improving your heart health isn’t as automatic as just flipping a switch. It requires living a healthier lifestyle, including eating well and exercising. This is especially important if you have a chronic condition that increases your risk for heart disease, such as high blood pressure, obesity or diabetes. The Henry Ford PREVENT Program can help you every step of the way.

The program begins with a health assessment, during which clinical exercise physiologists create a fitness program personalized for you. They also provide education to help you gain all the information you need to get on track for better heart health.

“The education covers topics like eating healthy when you have diabetes, decreasing salt in your diet, understanding cholesterol and learning how to shop for nutritious food in the grocery store,” says Deirdre Mattina, M.D., senior staff cardiologist at Henry Ford West Bloomfield. “It can also help you make lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking and reducing stress.”

The program is especially useful if you would benefit from making healthy changes in your life but aren’t sure where to begin.

“Some people just need a kick start,” says Dr. Mattina. “For example, walking may be great. But at what pace? And for how long? Those are areas where it’s important to work with a specialist who can help you create a safe exercise plan.”

Cardiac rehabilitation

If you are recovering from a heart attack or heart surgery, or have a chronic heart condition such as angina or congestive heart failure, Henry Ford West Bloomfield also offers comprehensive cardiac rehabilitation services.

“These programs are a tremendous asset for people who have heart problems,” says Dr. Lewis. “They reduce the risk for future heart problems and ultimately prolong life.”

If you have had a heart attack or heart surgery, the program can begin in the hospital before you leave. A team of clinical exercise physiologists and dietitians will work with your doctor to create a custom heart health plan for you.

The next step is outpatient exercise and education. In most cases, that starts with tests to determine a safe level of fitness. Doctors and clinical exercise physiologists will continue monitoring your heart and supervising your progress while you exercise.

“It’s not like just getting a personal trainer at the gym,” says Dr. Mattina. “These are people who are experts in the physiology of heart disease and heart failure. They work with heart patients to get them to their optimal health.”

The program calls for three outpatient exercise sessions per week for up to 12 weeks.

“The data show without question that heart patients do better when they have completed a cardiac rehabilitation program,” says Dr. Mattina.

Talk with your doctor

If you have a family history of heart disease or have high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes, talk with your doctor about your heart health. Even if you don’t have any of these risk factors, it’s a good idea to get a heart health screening to find out if there are any problems.

Heart disease remains one of the most serious risks to older adults. But it’s a problem you can do something about. By taking smart steps today, you can prevent many heart problems in the future.