Failure to refer: why are doctors ignoring cardiac rehab?

by Carolyn Thomas     @HeartSisters

Anne-Marie felt nervous after she was discharged from hospital following triple bypass surgery. She had only her immediate family to help her at home. And as she described:

“I felt like I fell through the cracks. When I left the hospital, my husband was given a sick woman in a wheelchair and a big bag of pills. I had heard about cardiac rehabilitation, so I followed up to see if I could join a program as I thought this could help me get back on my feet.

“But I was told they would get back to me. When they finally did – 15 weeks after my operation – I was already back at work, so couldn’t attend. I wasn’t offered any other alternative.”

When the British Heart Foundation’s National Audit of Cardiac Rehabilitation report was published, a blunt analysis by their auditors concluded that “cardiac rehabilitation remains a Cinderella service.” 

But the grim reality is hardly less Cinderella-ish on this side of the pond. And the reason so many freshly-diagnosed heart patients like Anne-Marie are falling through the cracks lies squarely with the doctors who are failing to refer their patients to cardiac rehab. Continue reading “Failure to refer: why are doctors ignoring cardiac rehab?”

Is cold-water swimming safe for my heart?

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

Consider this timely question, answered last month in Harvard Medical School’s publication Healthbeat by Dr. Massimo Ferrigno. His response may be useful for those of you who don’t mind putting your face in the water (I’m not one of them, alas, due to some traumatic childhood memories of the diving board at Mrs. Frydendahl’s backyard pool).

Q:  “I spend part of every year on the coast of Maine. One of the things I love to do there is swim in the ocean for 20 or 30 minutes. The water is cold (55° F) but I don’t mind. I’m almost 80. I had my mitral valve repaired five years ago, and my heart rate is sometimes irregular. Are my cold-water swims okay for my heart?”  Continue reading “Is cold-water swimming safe for my heart?”

“I started vomiting, and it turned out to be a heart attack”


Maxine Levy was a heart attack survivor at age 41. Now in excellent health, this bank executive from Springfield, New Jersey credits her angioplasty, medication and, most of all, her healthy lifestyle and commitment to regular exercise to living well with heart disease.

She tells women to be strong. If you feel you are having a heart attack, be your own advocate, as she illustrates in this video interview.  She also says: Continue reading ““I started vomiting, and it turned out to be a heart attack””

Why your heart needs work – not rest! – after a heart attack

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

After surviving a heart attack, I couldn’t wait to start my 4-month cardiac rehabilitation program so I would just start feeling “normal” again. But when I showed up for my first assessment, I was disappointed by the cardiac nurse’s recommendation that, because of ongoing issues, I should wait two months until I felt much stronger before starting. A Canadian study from the University of Alberta now suggests, however, that earlier might just be better for many.

For best results in most clinically stable patients after a heart attack, these new findings suggest that early exercise as well as prolonged exercise may well be the key to the best post-heart attack outcomes.  Continue reading “Why your heart needs work – not rest! – after a heart attack”