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Cardiac Rehab: Go, Go, Go

Cardiac Rehab Patients Have Better Survival Odds the More They Go

Daisy McFadden's Story continued...

"I look forward to going," she tells WebMD. "It gets me out and gives me a place to go. That is important."

A retired nurse, McFadden worked for the New York City department of health for 34 years from 1938 until 1972.  She still lives independently and credits the program, healthy living, and a positive attitude for her long life.

Earlier this month, McFadden celebrated her birthday at Montefiore with friends, family, and program staffers.

"I am very particular about my nutrition," she says. "I am careful about having three meals a day, and including fresh vegetables and fruits. And I stay away from negative people, places, and things."

Physician Referral a Problem

The study did not examine why so many eligible patients never attend cardiac rehab programs or go for only a few sessions.

Prince, who runs the Montefiore program, says one big obstacle has been that cardiologists and other referring physicians have been slow to recognize the impact of the programs on patient recovery.

"It has been shown that the single most important factor in patients being compliant with cardiac rehabilitation is the strength of the recommendation of the referring physician," he says.

Prince's desk sits in the middle of a gym, surrounded by treadmills. As patients exercise, he and other staffers monitor them.

While exercise is a big part of the program, there is much more to it, he says. The Montefiore program also emphasizes psychological support and education.

"When I started in this field, I thought it was all about the exercise," he says. "Exercise is important, but these programs also give patients structure, positive reinforcement, and an opportunity to meet other heart patients and realize they are not alone."

Cardiologist and American Heart Association spokesman Gerald Fletcher, MD, of the Mayo Clinic, Jacksonville, agrees.

"There are about 1 million heart attacks every year in the United States," he tells WebMD. "In addition to teaching people important tools, these programs help patients realize they are not alone."

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