SOUND MIND, SOUND BODY: Heart troubles nothing to take lightly

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Ever hear the metaphor, "as serious as a heart attack?"

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. and is a major cause of disability.

The most common heart disease in the U.S. is coronary heart disease, which often manifests as a heart attack.

In 2009, an estimated 785,000 Americans had a new coronary attack, and about 470,000 experienced a recurrent attack. About every 25 seconds, an American will have a coronary event, and about one every minute will die.

Some heart attacks are sudden and intense, but most heart attacks start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort.

Often victims aren't sure what's wrong and wait too long before getting help.

Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest persisting more than a few minutes. Sometimes that pain can subside and return.

Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing and fullness are typically experienced. Symptoms also include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach and shortness of breath may occur with or without chest discomfort.

Other signs include a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness. Risk factors associated with heart disease include high cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, tobacco use and secondhand smoke.

You can decrease your chance of a heart attack by not smoking, controlling your weight, decreasing your blood pressure, cholesterol and high blood sugar and increasing your physical activity.

The American Heart Association recommends a minimum of 2.5 hours of moderate intensity aerobic physical activity each week. You can incorporate your weekly physical activity with 30 minutes a day at least five days a week.

Aerobic exercise is most beneficial when performed in bouts of at least 10 minutes, and preferably, spread throughout the week. Stretch daily and strength train at least two days each week.

Several programs in Walla Walla are specifically designed for people who have suffered a heart attack.

Providence St. Mary Medical Center, Walla Walla General Hospital Adventist Health and the Walla Walla YMCA provide comprehensive services to people who have suffered a cardiac event.

These programs provide an interdisciplinary approach to all four phases of cardiac rehabilitation, from phase I inpatient, to phase II intensive outpatient hospital based, to phase III medically supervised community based, to phase IV independent community based cardiac rehabilitation.

Patients can find phases I and II at both hospitals in town.

Phase I focuses on educating the patient on what they should expect in their recovery, how they can begin to improve their function and strength, and when they can move onto Phase II services.

Phase II provides patients with a team of advance cardiac care registered nurses, exercise physiologists, dietitians, and physical and occupational therapists, all working in close collaboration with the patient's primary care provider and specialists.

Phase II cardiac rehabilitation is designed to combine extensive individualized education about the patient's condition.

How to monitor their symptoms, address lifestyle and daily living issues and incorporate exercise into their daily routine to significantly decrease their risk for additional cardiac events.

Upon achievement of the Phase II goals, the patient will be transitioned to the appropriate phase III program.

The Walla Walla YMCA and General Hospital offer phase III cardiac rehabilitation programs. The hospital's program is supervised by registered nurses trained in advanced cardiac life support. The YMCA's program is supervised by a registered nurse and a wellness coach.

Phase IV cardiac rehabilitation is a lifelong endeavor that graduates of the St. Mary Medical Center, the YMCA and General Hospital cardiac rehab programs are encouraged to pursue independently.

Based on the education and exercise training that they have received in the program, individuals will monitor and progress themselves to a lifestyle that includes a healthy diet and exercise. As members of the YMCA they will have access to advice and encouragement from the YMCA and PSMMC staff indefinitely.

Knowing the symptoms of a heart attack, and taking an active role in changing your lifestyle will help in a quick recovery.

Take advantage of the programs within our community to receive the best care and education after a heart attack.

If you have any further questions about these programs please feel free to call St. Mary Medical Center, General Hospital or the YMCA.

Christy Druffel Received her B.S. from Oregon State University in Exercise Sport Science and Fitness Program Management. She has been working for the YMCA for the last 15 years and is currently the Director of Healthy Living.

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