OhioHealth Launches Heart Rehab Program Just For Women

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Friday is National Wear Red Day, to bring attention to the fact that half million American women each year die from heart disease.  The American College of Cardiology says nearly half of all women fail to get cardiac rehabilitation after a heart problem.  OhioHealth is launching a pilot program to figure out why.

After women leave the hospital following treatment for heart problems...like a heart attack...46 percent don't bother to take the next step. That's cardiac rehabilitation to strengthen the heart.   It involves a personalized exercise program under a special trainer, and classes on stress reduction and healthy eating.

As Nancy Pry walked vigorously on a treadmill at the McConnell Cardiac Rehab Center, a physical trainer monitored her progress and offered suggestions.

"I would have been in dead in two years," Nancy said.  But surgery saved her life.  Her doctor ordered tests,  then heart bypass surgery after Nancy spent years ignoring shortness of breath and other symptoms.  "I had pressure over the chest area.  And I also had a lot of heartburn. And I was taking the big bottle of Tums," Nancy recalled.

After surgery, Nancy followed through with rehab, Dr. Anne Albers, a Riverside cardiologist, says too many women don't.  She and her colleagues want to know why.  So they're starting a pilot program just for women.  She suspects one issue is that women are too busy caring for others, to think about themselves.

"They got back. They're running the house. They may be working.  They're taking care of parents. They're taking care of children. They are very much extending to other people, and a lot of times, they move cardiac rehab  down the priority list,"  Dr. Albers said.

Dr. Albers also believes that women might be more willing to exercise and to speak freely in classes, if no men are around. She said people are 36% more likely to die of a heart ailment, if they skip rehab.  She hopes this effort will save more women like Nancy.

"The goal is, how can we give women whatever the options they need in order to be heart-healthy?" the doctor said. "This is an effort to say, we want to take care of you. "

Dr. Albers added that they also need to spread the word in the medical community about the importance of cardiac rehabilitation, so more family doctors will urge their patients to get this care.