February is National Heart Month

Couples in Cardiac Rehabilitation Increase Patient Compliance, Improve Relationships, Have Fun

February 04, 1997

Two hearts beating as one has long been the goal of heroes and heroines in romance novels, but it doesnÕt happen without considerable effort.

"Two hearts" is a new goal and trend in cardiac rehabilitation as demonstrated daily by patients and healthy spouses enrolled in the Strong Heart Partners Program: as patients and partners exercise on bicycles and treadmills and make lifestyle changes together, their hearts -- and relationships -- become better.

The Strong Heart Program provides traditional cardiac rehabilitation for patients who have had cardiac artery by-pass surgery or angioplasty; who have had a heart attack; and who are at increased risk for heart disease due to hypertension, obesity, and smoking.

A new sub-program, the Strong Hearts Partners Program seeks to actively involve the healthy spouse/partner is every aspect of a patient's cardiac rehabilitation.

According to Partners Program doctors, nurses, and therapists, when the spouse/partner is actively involved, the patient makes more progress and reaps more benefits from exercise, from changes in diet, and other lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking. The value added: the spouse benefits too!!!

The Strong Heart Partners Program was started in 1995 when doctors and nurses observed that for some patients, compliance is significantly better when a spouse or partner actively participates. The Partners Program has grown in popularity since it was first introduced and now involves 25 couples.

"Making major changes to one's lifestyle requires commitment and effort," says program nurse manager Laurie Kopin, R.N., M.S. "And that is why this program is a classic win-win situation. Instead of the spouse having to 'accommodate' changes in a patient's lifestyle, such as in diet and exercise, the spouse can now embrace those changes as part of his or her life, too. Sometimes, two hearts are better than one."

"For many couples, whether they are retired or in the midst of careers, cardiac rehabilitation is a way to do something together," says Kopin. "Our couples tell us their relationship has never been better and that they are taking an active interest in each other's health."

The Partners Program is available to spouses and significant others for a nominal fee of $6.50 per class or approximately $500 annually. Typically, couples would go to cardiac rehabilitation classes three times a week.

During any given week there are more than 300 patients undergoing cardiac rehabilitation at the Strong Heart Program. About ten percent choose to enroll in the Partners Program, says Kopin. "We expect to increase participation as more and more patients and their spouses see the benefits."

Background on Cardiac Rehabilitation at the Strong Heart Program

The cardiac rehabilitation program combines medical supervision and progressive exercise training to help individuals reach and maintain a high level of heart fitness. The program also offers structured educational classes on heart-healthy diets, risk-factor reduction, smoking cessation, and other medically related topics. Weekly stress management workshops and individual counseling are offered by the program's psychologist.

The Strong Heart Program is located at 980 Westfall Road in the Westfall-Clinton Medical Campus. The program is conducted in a 4,000 square-foot suite complete with exam rooms, men's and women's locker rooms with showers, a kitchen for cooking classes, and a 2,000 sq. foot exercise area with state-of-the-art exercise equipment.

The staff of the Strong Heart Program includes a physician/medical director, a nurse practitioner, nurses, an exercise physiologist, a clinical psychologist, and a nutritionist.

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