Heart Health: BAMC incorporates lifestyle medicine into cardiac rehab program

By Lori NewmanFebruary 13, 2024

Heart Health: BAMC incorporates lifestyle medicine into cardiac rehab program
Angelia Grona, physician assistant, monitors a simulated patient during a stress test at Brooke Army Medical Center, Joint Base San Antonio – Fort Sam Houston, Texas, Feb. 13, 2024. BAMC’s Department of Cardiology has incorporated lifestyle medicine into its cardiac rehabilitation program to help improve patient outcomes after a cardiac event. (DoD photo by Jason W. Edwards) (Photo Credit: Jason W. Edwards) VIEW ORIGINAL

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas, Feb. 13, 2024 – Brooke Army Medical Center Department of Cardiology has incorporated lifestyle medicine into its cardiac rehabilitation program to help improve patient outcomes after a cardiac event.

According to the American Heart Association, heart disease remains the leading cause of death in the United States.

“We know that 80% of chronic diseases are preventable, treatable, and even can be reversible with lifestyle modifications,” said Angelia Grona, a physician assistant who co-leads the Lifestyle Medicine Program at BAMC with Stacey Dramiga, head of the Human Performance Center.

Cardiac patients who have had a stent, surgery or heart attack attend the typical exercise program, but we offer additional intense rehabilitation with a shared medical appointment and education session, she explained.

“Our shared medical appointment is basically a check in on their health while they go through cardiac rehab, making sure no acute issues are preventing their recovery in between seeing their cardiologist or cardiothoracic surgeon,” Grona said. “This gives our patients the ability to ask questions and get support from a cardiac provider, and from each other through their recovery.”

The education session features a nutritionist, pharmacy department representative, a cardiology fellow, exercise physiologist, clinical psychologist and other cardiac providers who give several talks and answer questions.

“We focus on their medications, sleep, diet, stress, and disease process; but what makes this different is we also talk about the pillars of lifestyle medicine -- social connection, mindfulness, reversing disease and the Blue Zones (areas around the world where people live well past the American life-expectancy),” Grona said.

Patients participate in a cooking class, which focuses on plant-based eating to improve health and get them comfortable in the kitchen.

“We also do a potluck to practice our plant-based understanding and social connections,” she explained.

“We not only focus on a patient’s recovery from their cardiac issues but focus more on long-term goals for sustained changes with lifestyle modifications, so they won’t only recover from their cardiac issues, but have tools for longevity with their overall health,” Grona said.

What Is Heart Disease?

The term “heart disease” refers to several types of heart conditions. The most common type of heart disease in the U.S. is coronary artery disease, which affects blood flow to the heart. Decreased blood flow can cause a heart attack.

“Heart health is all about the basics – eat healthy, stay active, and avoid nicotine in any form,” said Army Lt. Col. (Dr.) Kimberly Kenney, BAMC Cardiology chief.

Keep Your Heart Healthy

To help prevent heart disease, you can:

• Eat healthy

• Get active

• Stay at a healthy weight

• Quit smoking and stay away from secondhand smoke

• Control your cholesterol and blood pressure

• Drink alcohol only in moderation

• Manage stress

“There are some simple lifestyle changes people can make to help maintain a healthy heart,” Grona said. “Try adding more movement in your life - walking tends to be the easiest – park towards the back of the parking lot, take the stairs, if you eat a big heavy meal go for a 10-minute walk afterwards.”

Anyone can get heart disease, but you’re at higher risk if you have high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or diabetes, smoke, are overweight or obese, don't get enough physical activity, and/or don't eat a healthy diet.

Your age and family history also affect your risk for heart disease.

“Heart disease starts in your teens and 20s with plaque being deposited in the vessels but doesn’t show up in symptoms for several decades,” Grona said. “That’s why it’s important to stay active, avoid toxins (nicotine/alcohol), eat healthy, get good sleep, maintain a healthy weight and get routine checkups.”

Your risk is higher if: 

• You’re a woman over age 55

• You’re a man over age 45

• Your father or brother had heart disease before age 55

• Your mother or sister had heart disease before age 65

Possible Symptoms

• Chest pain/pressure

• Shortness of breath

• Exertional jaw/shoulder discomfort

• Heart palpitations

• Dizziness or passing out

“If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you should be evaluated by your primary physician and if they have concerns, they will refer you to a cardiologist,” Grona said.

NOTE: Information above came from https://health.gov/myhealthfinder/health-conditions/heart-health/keep-your-heart-healthy