When someone has had a cardiac event, how is the heart brought back into condition? Like other muscles, this is often done through a program of supervised exercise.
Bigfork Valley has had a special cardiac rehabilitation program since the early 1980s. With equipment and technology, registered nurse Meryl Ostendorf follows recommendations from each patient's physician to set up a rehabilitation program. The goal of the program, she explained, is to restore the patient's physical capability.
The program is run in conjunction with the SMDC Heart Center, which is both a resource for the program and sponsor for an annual conference in Duluth.
It's a fascinating field, believes Ostendorf, and one that is constantly changing. Surgeries, equipment and medication all are making continual advances. There are changes in the insurance field, too. Medicare, for instance, now will cover cardiac rehab after valve replacements and stent insertions, she pointed out.
A patient will usually stay in the program for six to eight weeks. When they complete it, they will take with them an exercise program either for home use or use in a fitness center.
They also get a tee shirt. It's not for sale, said Ostendorf. It has to be earned!
When exercising, each participant wears a monitor that records heart function. It's important to remember, said Ostendorf, that an EKG taken during exercise will be different than that taken while lying still. The exercise program may include a treadmill, a bike or a recumbent bike. The recumbent machine, called a NuStep, allows patients in almost any physical condition to still exercise with equipment, regardless of their mobility or equilibrium.
Summer visitors can also use cardiac rehab to continue their programs with a referral from their physician and cardiac history. Stress tests are performed by Dr. Friedlieb of Grand Itasca once each month in Bigfork.
Cardiac Rehab is now located in new space next to Rehab Services, near the front of the building, and can be reached directly at (218) 743-4151. It is open Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 8 a.m. - 3 p.m.
The Nustep machine allows patients in almost any physical condition to exercise with equipment, regardless of mobility or equilibrium.