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Colorado Springs diagnostics, rehab teams help heart disease survivors recover holistically

By: Hannah Blick, hannah.blick@gazette.com
February 25, 2016 Updated: February 25, 2016 at 9:01 am
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Penrose-St. Francis Health Services cardiac diagnostics rehabilitiation

Look for Heart Health features on gazette.com/heart throughout American Heart Month, sponsored by Penrose-St. Francis Health Services.

Surviving heart disease is about more than just making it to the emergency room in time for an angioplasty – the road to recovery is best walked alongside experts in diagnostics and rehabilitation, developing a plan to survive for years to come.

Geri Montelongo, RN, BSN, serves as Manager of Cardiac Diagnostics and Cardio Pulmonary Rehabilitation at Penrose-St. Francis Health Services. Penrose-St. Francis is part of the Centura Health Heart and Vascular Network, the region’s leading provider of cardiovascular care.

Cardiac diagnostic tests are non-invasive methods of identifying cardiovascular disease in patients. Tests include electrocardiograms, echocardiograms, and stress tests, which help determine safe levels of exercise following a heart attack or surgery. “We do six different types of stress testing,” Montelongo said. “Anytime somebody is told by a doctor they have heart issues, it creates high anxiety. We tend to not be as emotional about our joints as our hearts, for decent reason.”

In addition to testing, Montelongo and her team help patients adapt to their new lifestyles after a heart attack. “Suddenly you’re going home with five or six meds and activity restrictions and a new diet,” she said. “We start the education process in the hospital before the patient goes on to cardiac rehabilitation.”

That’s where Dr. Chitra Peddada, MD, and her team come in. Dr. Peddada serves as Medical Director of Cardiac and Pulmonary Rehabilitation for Penrose-St. Francis, which opened Colorado’s first certified cardiac rehab center about 30 years ago.

“This is so much more than just teaching patients how to exercise,” Dr. Peddada said. “We are a part of the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation and are a secondary prevention program, so that really tells you a lot.”

Dr. Peddada’s team includes tobacco counselors and a Registered Dietitian who advises patients at no extra charge on developing a heart healthy diet as they recover from the effects of heart disease. “Many of our patients also have diabetes, and we have a Certified Diabetes Educator who can help them learn to be independent and manage their diabetes with diet and exercise,” Dr. Peddada said.

In addition to assisting patients with long-term health goals, cardiopulmonary rehab specialists also work with patients to manage the psychosocial effects of recovering from a heart attack. “Patients can become angry, anxious, or depressed about their illnesses. It’s a tough thing to work through, especially if they have to get a defibrillator or pacemaker,” Dr. Peddada said. “We are here to help on all levels and make sure our patients feel confident in their total, holistic journey as survivors.”

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