Giving Your Heart Back Its Get Up And Go

Heart attack survivors should actually increase physical activity after recovery

Climbing a flight of stairs. Gardening. Washing the dishes. These everyday activities may seem to be fraught with peril for someone who is recovering from a heart attack. Patients are understandably cautious about physical activity after surviving such an ordeal. Yet most people are able to return to their previous levels of activity, according to the American Heart Association. In fact, cardiologists often recommend an increase in activity for a better quality of life after recovery.

“Being sedentary has been known to be detrimental to cardiovascular health altogether,” says cardiologist Erasme Coly, MD, of Southern Coast Cardiology. “Our goal as cardiologists is to get patients up and active as soon as we can.”

Physical activity is one aspect that Dr. Coly addresses with heart attack patients, along with several other possible risk factors including obesity, hypertension, diabetes, elevated cholesterol, and smoking.

“We make sure that all of those risk factors are being handled and treated,” Coly says. “At the same time, we often enroll patients into cardiac rehabilitation.”

Cardiac rehab enables patients to attempt the needed physical activity under a controlled setting where they are monitored by healthcare professionals.

“When patients start exercising under these circumstances, they realize ‘Wow, I can do it,’” Coly says. “Eventually they will be able to stop cardiac rehab and continue a program at home.”

Dr. Coly has also noted the mental benefits that cardiac rehab can bring.

“It’s good for new patients to see others who have gone through the same experience and are still doing well,” he says. “It’s not unusual for patients to want to continue working out at the same facility after their rehab is done, but with a little less monitoring. They sometimes find a social camaraderie with the other patients who have been through it.”

Dr. Coly receives feedback on a patient’s progress in cardiac rehab while continuing to work with the patient on any other risk factors such as hypertension or elevated cholesterol. Knowing that heart attack patients tend to reassess their lifestyle in recovery, he encourages them to embrace the idea of increased activity to a level that is right for them.

“Of course you don’t have to do it at the level of an athlete,” Coly says. “But being active can lengthen endurance and improve quality of life for those who have had a heart attack in the past. Getting up and going is very important.”

The best cardiac rehabilitation programs include exercise, education and counseling:

In cardiac rehabilitation, a dedicated team of caregivers teaches patients how to adjust to a heart-healthy lifestyle. Rehabilitation often takes place in groups; however, each patient's plan is individualized based on specific risk factors and special needs. Your cardiologist will communicate regularly with your cardiac rehab team, helping you to stay on course as you also address any other lifestyle factors that put you at risk.

A physician's referral is necessary for admission. For more information about St. Joseph’s/Candler’s cardiac rehabilitation program at its Candler Hospital campus, call 912 -819-7340
  • St. Joseph's Hospital Campus: 11705 Mercy Blvd., Savannah, GA 31419, (p) 912-819-4100
  • Candler Hospital Campus: 5353 Reynolds St., Savannah, GA 31405, (p) 912-819-6000
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St.Joseph's Hospital Campus: 912-819-4100

Candler Hospital Campus: 912-819-6000