Anthony “Tony” Turturici lives by the rule that exercise is the key to everything.
The 89-year-old Hollywood Hills resident who suffered his first heart attack in 1998, picked up the habit to keep moving after undergoing a quintuple bypass, an open heart surgery done to treat severely blocked arteries that feed the heart.
He attended 36 one-hour sessions of cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation classes for three months at Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood and credits the program for being alive and well today.
“I don’t think I would have survived without it,” he said.
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Turturici is constantly on the move today, exercising at least 30 minutes a day and loves dancing with his wife.
Cardiac rehab, a supervised program, involves monitored exercises to help people recover after a heart attack, heart surgery or heart transplant. It also involves counseling to help patients with medication, diet and nutrition and how to manage stress to reduce the risk of future heart problems.
“There is not one type of cardiac rehabilitation for everybody,” said Dr. Javier Jimenez-Carcamo, medical director of the Advanced Heart Failure and Pulmonary Hypertension Programs, Miami Cardiac and Vascular Institute at South Miami Hospital.
“It really needs to be tailored for the individual and for the conditions that lead the patient to that cardiac rehabilitation program.”
The programs usually take place at fitness centers where there are exercise physiologists who teach patients about appropriate workouts for specific conditions, the desired target heart rate and signs on when to stop working out.
“This helps patients progressively increase their exercise, so they can return to normal again,” said Dr. Ioana Dumitru, medical director of Heart Failure, Cardiomyopathy and Cardiac Transplantation at Memorial Healthcare System.
Doctors credit rehab programs for creating healthy habits like exercising for many of their patients, allowing bodies and hearts to get stronger and work better.
“It makes people conditioned so they recognize it’s not only important to take medicine and do everything the doctor tells you, but also to maintain their own health,” Dumitru said.
Cardiac rehab also helps to fight depression. Not only does the required exercise promote natural endorphin release that helps lift a person’s mood, but also the peer-to-peer relationships adds to a patient’s recovery.
“People after they have any kind of heart-related issue become very scared to get back to normal activity,” said Dumitru. “Sharing their experiences helps a lot.”
After a major heart attack or heart surgery patients should always look into a cardiac rehab program.
Despite the benefits, some don’t participate because they may not be covered by their health insurance, they don’t feel they have time or even because they’re not always informed. Some doctors aren’t trained to suggest it.
Dr. Sharon Andrade-Bucknor, medical director of cardiac rehab at the UHealth University of Miami Hospital, said people should be aware that cardiac rehab exists.
“It would be beneficial for them to take part in terms of adherence to medication, improving their diet and increasing their overall quality of life,” said Andrade-Bucknor.
“It is definitely something people should seek.”
Patients like Turturici think that it should be mandatory.
“Once you experience something like this, it’s life changing. You do change your lifestyle,” said Turturici.
“The most beneficial thing is to not be dormant.”