Heart patients in Colchester County take control

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TRURO - Colchester East Hants Health Authority (CEHHA) recently hosted a unique celebration with a focus on heart health.

A recent gathering celebrated heart health programming through Colchester East Hants Health Authority. Participating the cardiac maintenance program were, from left, Tracy Selway, Colchester East Hants Health Authority (CEHHA) chronic disease nurse; participant Albert Dunlop; participant Kathy Cox; Dr. Manoj Vohra, CEHHA vice-president of medicine and chief of staff; Katie Munro, CEHHA exercise therapist; participant Irma Bolger; Tracey Martin, CEHHA primary health care manager; participant Murray Ewart and Dr. Masis Perk, program director. Dietrician Amanda Babineau is also involved in the program. SUBMITTED PHOTO

The event marked the graduation of the first class of the district’s cardiac maintenance program. The primary health-care program supports participants to take charge of their health and reduce the risk of having another cardiac event.

The 10-week cardiac maintenance program began in the summer and helps individuals who have recently had their first experience with a heart attack or heart failure, or had a recent procedure such as a stent or bypass surgery.

Building on other services provided in the past, the program offers a medically-supervised exercise and education program. The health authority offers the program at the Rath Eastlink Community Centre, and partnered with the Colchester East Hants Health Centre (CEHHC) Foundation to obtain the exercise equipment for the program.  

“This is another example of the local impact that the CEHHC foundation, through our donors, can have in the lives of patients from the surrounding community,” said Sharon Crowe, executive director of the foundation, in a news release.

Exercise therapist, Katie Munroe, who was hired to support the program, provides participants with an exercise prescription that is unique to their needs and abilities. She is part of a team that includes a nurse, dietitian, program leader, Dr. Masis Perk and other community providers. The program was also developed with support from staff from CEHHA’s cardio-respiratory service.

“Thanks to the equipment provided by the foundation, we are able to provide each patient with their own exercise prescription that we progress during the course of the program based on what is safe and appropriate for them,” said Munro.

Some of the equipment that staff works with, such as arm ergometers and recumbent ellipticals and steppers, are not pieces of equipment that you typically see in fitness facilities, but are helpful in rebuilding exercise and activity tolerance for doing everyday things such as climbing stairs, pushing a lawnmower, or carrying groceries.

The program focuses on cardiovascular fitness but also emphasizes the importance of resistance training to maintain muscle strength, and flexibility exercises.

Patients are referred to the program while in hospital, or by their family physician, and once enrolled, attend the exercise and education sessions twice a week. Admissions into the program are staggered, allowing for ongoing intake as new patients are identified, and allows participants who are part way through their program to lend support to newcomers.

“I strongly believe in the role of patients in teaching other patients,” said Dr. Perk, also in the release, who was on hand for the graduation and played a key role in establishing the service.

In addition to peer group support, the exercise program is complimented by education sessions covering everything from nutrition to understanding how the heart functions.  Perk leads some of the education sessions and helps monitor patients’ conditions as they progress through the program. As someone who cares for patients in hospital when they are dealing with frightening and often life-threatening heart problems, he understands just how key it is for patients to have support to change the conditions that led to their heart problems.

The program also encourages use of community resources. One of the education sessions includes a grocery store tour aimed at helping educate patients on the importance of understanding and reading food labels, how to label compare and make healthier choices.

Kathy Cox is among the recent graduates. She was signed up to attend a program in Halifax before learning of the program here. While she was initially hesitant, she admits she couldn’t wait to come back after the first session.

“It was amazing. It helps being around those who have had a similar experience,” said Cox in the news release. “If not for the program I would have been home in bed feeling depressed.”

Cox has made major lifestyle changes since her health scare, losing 30 pounds, including 15 since she began the cardiac maintenance program.

The Provincial Cardiovascular Health Strategy recognizes cardiac maintenance programs as being key to prevention and cardiovascular care.

 

 

 

Organizations: Colchester East Hants Health Centre, Rath Eastlink Community Centre, CEHHC foundation

Geographic location: Colchester County, Halifax

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