Media Contact: Allison Elliott
LEXINGTON, Ky. (Feb. 04, 2010) − February is American Heart Month. It also marks one year of operation for the University of Kentucky Gill Heart Institute Cardiac Rehabilitation Program.
Battling to change health habits among Kentuckians – a population with
some of the highest heart disease rates in the world – the program is
helping high-risk patients make radical, lasting changes to improve
their heart health.
“People have a notion of heart disease as something they’re born
with, but for most people that isn’t true. Genetics play a role, but
lifestyle accounts for the majority of heart disease risk,” says Dr.
Alison Bailey, Gill Heart Institute cardiologist and director of the
cardiac rehab program.
In the past year, dozens of patients have undergone total lifestyle
makeovers with the help of heart health professionals. Many patients
enter rehabilitation after a dramatic event, such as a heart attack.
Others self-refer to the program, knowing they are at risk and hoping
to avoid a cardiac emergency. Because of its association with the Gill
Heart Institute and UK Chandler Hospital, the Gill rehab program sees a
variety of patients – from young transplant recipients to middle-aged
people with more typical heart disease risk factors.
All cardiac rehabilitation patients benefit from the comprehensive
approach of a dedicated team of cardiologists, dietitians, exercise
physiologists and health educators, who are determined to reduce the
premature mortality risk of every participant. Exercise plans are
individualized to fit the needs of each patient – taking into account
their medical needs and existing levels of fitness. Dietitians work
with patients to create personalized nutrition plans. Every participant
benefits from educational programs targeting risk factors such as
hypertension, obesity, physical inactivity and diabetes, along with
smoking cessation programs. The rehabilitation facility has exercise
equipment and qualified trainers on-site, so it’s one-stop shopping for
According to Bailey, Medicare and private insurance generally cover
36 sessions of cardiac rehabilitation for a patient who has had a
myocardial infarction, bypass surgery, valve replacement surgery, heart
transplant, stent placement or angioplasty, or who suffers from stable
angina. For patients who complete the initial sessions, the Gill Heart
Institute Rehabilitation Program offers a monthly maintenance program
at the rate of $55 a month – about the price of a gym membership.
However, unlike a regular gym, the Gill program offers participants the
chance to improve their health under the supervision of leading
cardiologists and experts trained to work with high-risk patients. The
program is located at UK Good Samaritan Hospital, where parking is provided.
The results of cardiac rehabilitation are real. Studies of Medicare
patients have shown that participation in a heart health rehabilitation
program reduces patient mortality by about 10 percent over a five-year
period compared to patients who do not enter such programs.
Although based in Lexington, the UK Gill Heart Institute maintains
satellite clinics throughout the state to reach the rural populations
at highest risk of heart disease. Bailey herself is a native of
Manchester, Ky., so she understands the challenges faced by her
“We have high rates of smoking, and when adults smoke their children
are exposed to the dangerous effects of second-hand smoke and more
likely to smoke as adults themselves," Bailey said. "Kentucky also has
high rates of diabetes, obesity and hypertension and some of the lowest
rates of physical activity in the nation. Historically, access to
medical care has been difficult in many parts of the state, so when
people come in for treatment they often present with more advanced
heart disease. We also struggle with high levels of poverty and low
levels of education – factors that track with heart disease. Depression
and anxiety, other contributors to heart disease, are also high here.”
But Bailey is quick to add that, though problems afflicting Kentucky
may seem grim, the prognosis for individual patients can be very good.
Cardiac rehabilitation has a proven track record of positive results
and offers a chance for patients to recover from heart disease by
following an individualized program of fitness, dietary modification
and education – in short, radically changing their lifestyle. The
advice may seem to be common sense – eat well, exercise and practice
good health habits – but Bailey has seen that patients need support to
make heart-healthy changes.
“A healthy lifestyle isn’t complicated,” says the doctor, “but it can be difficult. Cardiac rehabilitation offers help.”