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Colorado Springs cardiac care experts offer preventative, recovery options for heart health

By: Hannah Blick, hannah.blick@gazette.com
February 29, 2016 Updated: March 18, 2016 at 10:17 am
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Look for Heart Health features on gazette.com/heart throughout American Heart Month, sponsored by Penrose-St. Francis Health Services.

Heart disease is never part of the plan, but if you have to fight it, you’ll want to do so with Penrose-St. Francis Health Services in your corner.

From inexpensive preventative testing to an experienced and compassionate rehabilitation staff, cardiac patients receive top-notch treatment at Penrose-St. Francis, part of the Centura Health Heart and Vascular Network, the region’s leading provider of cardiovascular care.

Lea Smith, RN, BSN, coordinates coronary calcium scans at Penrose-St. Francis in efforts to prevent development of heart disease. “This is the only pre-clinical test we have for heart disease and it’s a great baseline for anyone who wants to understand their potential for heart issues,” she said. “We generally recommend the scan for those who have two or more risk factors for heart disease.” Risk factors include family history, blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, being overweight or obese, physically inactive, a history of cigarette smoking, and age.

A calcium scan is a CT scan that detects calcified plaque in the arteries that deliver oxygenated blood to the myocardium – or heart muscle. It then produces a number to help a patient understand his or her risk for heart disease. “You don’t need a doctor’s note to receive the scan,” Smith said. “The scan is painless and quick and you get a wealth of information. What sets us apart is we offer it for the same price as most other places in town, $149, but we have board-certified cardiologists and radiologists look at each scan. We also sit and go over the five-page report with you so you understand it completely.”

For some, it might be too late for a pre-clinical scan, particularly those recovering from a heart attack. That’s where Diana Schmitz, RN – along with the Penrose-St. Francis cardiac rehabilitation team – comes in.

Schmitz sees patients of a variety of ages and backgrounds come in for rehabilitation after battling heart disease. “Cardiac rehab is more than exercise, it’s a support system,” she said. “My favorite part is the “A ha!” moments, when patients understand something new about their bodies and really see the rehab working for them.”

Most patients attend between 18-36 rehabilitation sessions, two or three days a week. “A huge piece of cardiac rehab is education,” Schmitz said. “We have a registered dietitian on staff and a variety of exercise experts. All of our people get truly specialized treatment and attention. We get to know their stories and they become like family.”

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