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American Heart Month at Burke's Outpatient Cardiac Rehabilitation Program

Published February 4, 2022

Burke's Outpatient Cardiac Rehabilitation Program focuses on heart health throughout the year, but we pay extra attention to our hearts during February, National Heart Month.

Community members who have had certain cardiac events are referred to the program by their doctors and then follow an individualized program to build back their strength and endurance. The cardiac gym is located in the Billings Building, second floor, on Burke’s White Plains campus. Participants attend 36 sessions and utilize cardiac equipment such as treadmills, exercise bicycles, and NuSteps, a total body workout machine.

“Medication will keep you alive; exercise will keep you independent,” said Manager of the Cardiac Rehabilitation Robert Steigerwald, MS, RCEP, CPHQ, EIM3. “Our measure of success is when a participant continues to exercise after they complete the program and live a more active life.”  Cardiac rehabilitation is recognized as the gold standard for treatment after a cardiac event, better than medication alone.

Exercise physiologists guide and instruct patients while Bernhard Lanwehr, MD, supervises their progress in real-time as they exercise. Patients wear a three-lead portable electrocardiogram (EKG) monitor during each session.  They follow an exercise program tailored to their specific fitness level. Some have led active lifestyles before the cardiac event, whereas others have led sedentary lifestyles and have never set foot in a fitness center.

Participant Joel F. suffered a heart attack and now comes to the Cardiac Program two to three times a week. Joel worked out and played softball regularly before his medical emergency and finds the sessions at Burke valuable. 

“I needed some sort of a roadmap,” Joel noted. “If I just try to do it on my own, there would be such uncertainty. Am I doing too much? Am I doing enough? Coming here, where you have people with medical expertise monitoring you while you are doing exercise and ramping up the level of challenge, it rebuilds your confidence.”

In addition to National Heart Month, February 13th begins Cardiac Rehabilitation Week. Steigerwald and his team encourage program participants and the general public to exercise at the appropriate levels for their health. Exercise keeps hearts healthy and increases metabolism, improves blood sugar, and reduces the risk of serious medical events.

Steigerwald observes how participants reap the benefits. "The staff makes each session meaningful for each patient. We talk about lifestyles and finding ways to stay active."

The Cardiac Rehabilitation Program has treated patients from 18 years of age through their 90s.

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