Each year, more than 800,000 people experience a heart attack in the United States, according to the American Heart Association®, with about 1 in 4 of them having already suffered a previous coronary event. For those who have had a heart attack or other heart problem, cardiac rehabilitation is an important part of the recovery process to help prevent future heart problems, according to health experts, by strengthening the heart and body after a coronary event, building healthier habits through exercise and nutrition training and education, increasing energy and strength and reducing stress.
South Texas Health System Heart’s Intensive Cardiac Rehabilitation (ICR) program, which offers more in-depth education on lifestyle changes required to help improve one’s overall heart health, has been certified by the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation (AACVPR) for three years, recognizing STHS Heart’s commitment to improving the quality of life of patients by enhancing standards of patient care.
Cardiovascular and pulmonary rehabilitation programs are designed to help people with cardiovascular problems (e.g., heart attacks, coronary artery bypass graft surgery) and pulmonary problems (e.g., chronic obstructive pulmonary disease [COPD], respiratory symptoms) recover faster and live healthier. Both programs include exercise, education, counseling and support for patients and their families. Traditional cardiac rehab consists of 36 sessions of which most are exercise but four can be education sessions based on a patient’s individualized treatment plan. On the other hand, STHS Heart’s intensive cardiac rehabilitation program, developed in partnership with Pritikin Intensive Cardiac Rehab, consists of 72 sessions broken into 36 sessions of exercise and 36 sessions of in-depth education.
“During their intensive cardiac rehabilitation appointments our patients take part in both an exercise class and at least one class with practical lessons on how to make smarter nutrition choices, keep their stress at bay, quit smoking or maintain a positive attitude,” said Anna Liza Esguerra, Clinical Program Director of the STHS Heart Intensive Cardiac Rehabilitation program. “This type of education is vital for many patients to properly recover from a cardiovascular event and improve their health going forward.”
To earn accreditation, the STHS Heart program completed an application process that required extensive documentation of the program’s practices. AACVPR Program Certification is the only peer-reviewed accreditation process designed to review individual programs for adherence to standards and guidelines developed and published by AACVPR and other related professional societies. Each program’s application is reviewed by the AACVPR Program Certification Committee, and certification is awarded by the AACVPR Board of Directors.
“The Intensive Cardiac Rehab Team at South Texas Health System Heart is extremely proud to be certified by the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation,” said Esguerra. “The STHS Heart Intensive Cardiac Rehabilitation program enables us to provide our cardiac patients with comprehensive education about critical lifestyle changes following a heart attack or other cardiac event. It’s an essential component of our continuum of care, serving as a complement to the award-winning surgical and medical treatments we perform, to improve our patients' long-term health outcomes. This certification speaks volumes about our commitment to provide the highest level of quality, compassionate care and the best outcomes to our cardiac patients.”
STHS Heart’s program is the first and only Pritikin ICR program south of San Antonio and the third Pritikin program in Texas. The program has served nearly 600 patients since it was established during the pandemic in June 2020. The program saw a 71% increase in patient sessions in the second year of operation compared to the first and another 24% increase in sessions following its third year.
In 2018, AACVPR moved to an outcomes-based certification process with performance measurements that represent more meaningful outcomes. Therefore, programs certified by AACVPR are leaders in the cardiovascular and pulmonary rehabilitation field because they offer the most advanced practices available and have proven track records of high-quality patient care. AACVPR Program Certification is valid for three years.