Taking Control of Your Heart Health
By Jon Lewis
Story and photo by Jon Lewis
Shasta Regional Medical Center is taking a double-sided approach to heart health: With the cardiac rehab program, registered nurses are working hard to get heart patients back on their feet and on their way to healthier futures; with heart wellness screening, they’re offering a low-cost way to identify and reduce the risk of heart disease.
Donna Hansen, the charge nurse overseeing both programs, is particularly excited about the screening program and says it’s the hospital taking a proactive approach to promoting healthier hearts.
“I feel very optimistic about the wellness screening. As we progress and get more people motivated to take care of themselves, we’ll prevent the need for rehab,” Hansen says.
Heart wellness screening is offered on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the hospital. For a screening fee of $45, the one-hour assessment includes an electrocardiogram (EKG) test, a lipid and cardiac risk profile, screening for cholesterol and pre-diabetic glucose levels, blood pressure and heart rate readings, an ankle-brachial index test for peripheral artery disease and a heart-healthy eating plan.
It’s a hefty bundle of services, provided by fully accredited nurses, that would otherwise cost hundreds of dollars to obtain. “And a doctor’s referral is not required, which is important given the shortage of general practice physicians in the North State,” Hansen says.
Heart wellness screening is geared toward empowering people to take control of their health and ward off potential threats like diabetes, which quadruples the risk for heart disease. “As Americans, we have to wake up and be responsible and not just turn our care over to doctors. We have to know our numbers and become aware of our bodies and make healthier choices,” she says, “before you have all these chronic diseases.”
The staff is eager to help with that decision-making process by offering menu suggestions and other eating tips that promote heart health and strategies for managing carbohydrate and sugar intake. “Everybody is getting on board with wellness,” says Hansen, who notes diabetes prevention programs are offered through Shasta Regional Medical Center, the Shasta Family YMCA and the Shasta County Health and Human Services Agency.
When heart disease strikes, however, Shasta Regional’s cardiac rehab program is available to help patients recover and improve their overall wellbeing. The medically supervised program uses counseling, therapy, technology and old-fashioned support to help patients reduce their risk for coronary disease and return to a more productive and satisfying lifestyle.
Cardiac rehab requires a doctor’s referral but Hansen says several North State cardiologists are fans of the program. Most insurance plans will cover the first 36 sessions, provided they commence within a year of the cardiac event. Getting started within that first year is important, Hansen says, as some people realize they weren’t able to make progress on their own but find it’s too late to qualify for coverage.
During those sessions, patients are eased into exercise routines while wearing heart monitors. Heart rates and rhythms are monitored throughout the session and reports are periodically forwarded to each patient’s cardiologist. The nurses on staff all have extensive backgrounds in cardiac care and they’re happy to offer advice, encouragement and support throughout the program.
“We’re not pushing them to be athletes,” Hansen says. “It’s a slow progression where we gradually go faster and increase resistance.” Physical activity gets the heart pumping and fine-tunes the entire cardiovascular system.
Rehab patients also learn how to modify or eliminate risk factors like high blood pressure, smoking, stress, obesity, diabetes and physical inactivity. In most cases, they’re able to reduce the risk of a future cardiac event while dropping a few pounds, resuming activities they may have been missing out on and eating better. •
For more information, call 530-244-5105