After yielding positive results in its 2014 study on the health of Canadians, the Heart and Stroke Foundation still insists that an aftercare programs for survivors of heart disease on P.E.I. is needed.
“Without question, there is need for a provincial cardiac rehabilitation program,” said Dr. Patrick Bergin of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH), adding that for both patients recovering from heart disease and their families, there is “tremendous fear around future events.”
Managing stress, maintaining a healthy weight and maintaining physical activity were three challenges of recovery highlighted in the report, which analyzed the responses of 2,000 survivors of heart disease or stoke.
Bergin recalls a cardiac rehabilitation program that was offered by QEH between 2002 and 2006, with 10 patients receiving care twice per week over the course of 10 weeks.
“They had access to exercise sessions in a safe environment, a pharmacist close by, education around nutrition and education
around actual heart disease itself,” he explained.
“Consistently the patients that went through that program were very glad they had done it,” he continued. “They clearly do much better from a cardiac standpoint as well as mental wellbeing, empowering themselves with knowledge of the disease, knowing what medications they’re taking and what they will do.”
Len Knox was one of the first patients to receive care through this program. Prior to entering, he had several consecutive heart attacks, which he attributed to an unaltered lifestyle of smoking, not exercising and living in denial.
“I would never have known what to do to prevent it,” he said.
He was referred to the cardiac rehabilitation program after having a heart attack in late 2001.
“It completely changed everything for me,” he said. “They showed me how to eat, exercise, relax and get rid of stress. Those were the things causing my heart attacks.”
Since exiting the program, Knox has managed to keep up his new lifestyle, which he credits to the rehabilitation.
“I was terribly disappointed when they stopped it,” he said.
The call for a new program comes as funding for the Heart and Stroke’s current cardiac rehabilitation service runs out.
Change of Heart, a program funded by a donor over the past five years, was only focused on “low-risk” patients.
“What we’re advocating for is an across the board program,” said Sharon Hollingsworth, communications manager of the Heart and Stroke Foundation for P.E.I., who underscores the importance of having services available for high-risk individuals as well.
“Higher-risk patients are at higher risk for complications for their heart disease,” said Bergin.
As the funding for the Change of Heart program terminates, the province will be left without a cardiac rehabilitation program. Hollingsworth said there is a push being made to implement a new program.
“We have been in early discussions with the province,” she said. “There hasn’t been any firm decision made.”