Elizabeth “Liz” Chasteen is an active retiree living in west Knoxville. After discovering some blood vessels in her heart were blocked because of heart disease, Chasteen was prescribed cardiac rehabilitation, a medically supervised exercise program for people who have had surgery or a health event involving the heart or lungs. Her hospital of choice is Parkwest Medical Center, so she was glad to know there was an outpatient rehabilitation option for cardiac rehab close by.
Don’t Ignore Chest Pain
Chasteen, a retired nurse, enjoys gardening, taking care of her home including mowing and weed eating, and sewing. Over the course of the pandemic, she estimates having sewn more than 500 face masks that she donated within her community. To stay active, Chasteen walks her 8-pound Maltese in her neighborhood. In her subdivision, the hills get steep, but she is up for the challenge. Both she and the dog are accustomed to the hike, despite the inclines.
This past summer she experienced occasional stabbing pain in her chest and shortness of breath when walking uphill. Knowing she couldn’t ignore her symptoms, she made an appointment with her cardiologist, who ordered a CT scan and heart cath. The diagnostic tests led to the discovery of several blockages.
Chasteen received four stents, which are devices inserted into a vessel or artery to keep the passageway open for blood flow and prevent blockages. She stayed overnight at Parkwest for observation before going home.
Chasteen was weakened by her hospitalization and had a few fainting spells. Although she has family nearby, living independently is important to Chasteen. “I don’t make a very good patient,” she laughs. Once she was able to drive herself, she began attending daily exercise sessions at Parkwest Cardiac Rehabilitation. To combat the effects of heart disease and negate risk factors such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol, physicians often prescribe cardiac rehabilitation. This heart-strengthening program includes gentle exercise with the guidance and supervision of a team of nurses and exercise physiologists.
“I could walk OK, but I was shaky,” she says. “My endurance just wasn’t there. You learn to breathe properly. I practiced breathing without gasping. And slowly, I got better.”
Amy Dale, RN, CCN, certified case manager at Parkwest Cardiac Rehabilitation, says Chasteen had a positive attitude and was determined to get stronger as she progressed through the program. “During rehab, Chasteen lost body fat and dramatically increased the amount of energy she was able to exert during a workout. She was consistent with her attendance and compliant at home.” Dale reports, “Her goals after graduating from the program are maintaining healthy cholesterol levels and normal blood pressure, keeping up with medications and regular physician check- ups, and following a heart- healthy diet while staying hydrated.”
Parkwest is one of the few cardiac rehab programs in the nation that offers patients rehab five days a week. Most programs have patients come in three days per week, so the program takes about three months to complete. Chasteen began in October and completed her program just after the New Year.
“Cardiac rehab is a safe environment in which exercise physiologists and other trained professionals work one-on-one with the patient in a motivating, structured environment. The prescription is an exercise routine tailored to each person,” Dale says. “Everyone is different. We prepare our patients for what happens when they get home – how to create and maintain healthy habits once they are outside of our facility.”
Recovery and Reflection
Chasteen is proud of the progress she made physically, as well as how much she has learned about diet and nutrition. The cardiac rehab program includes an educational component
which teaches patients how to shop and cook heart-healthy foods, use substitutes for ingredients and become aware of their overall health. “I have always cooked for myself instead of getting takeout,” she says.
“But there were certain things I thought were healthy that I have stopped using. I learned coconut oil is a saturated fat, so I have adapted to using less of it or just doing different things like that. It has been eye-opening. “Activity-wise, I don’t limit myself. I can do 99 percent of everything I did before,” says Chasteen.
The team at Parkwest Cardiac Rehabilitation helped Chasteen with a slow and steady exercise regimen. She continues her daily outdoor walks with her dog and also uses her treadmill at home. Dale notes, “Heart patients have better outcomes if we catch them before a crisis occurs. We caught her before a crisis occurred and she is doing great. With early intervention and proper care, she responded well to rehab and is back to enjoying her life.”
“I appreciate everything they did for me,” Chasteen reflects. “I am 75 years old and still have my car and do my own shopping, so I am going to be as healthy as I can be.”
A Healthier You
Cardiac rehab includes monitored exercise and other guidance from healthcare professionals in order to help patients decrease the risk of future heart problems, build strength and stamina, and develop a regimen of exercise to control stress. The goal of cardiac rehab is to get individuals back to regular daily life as soon as possible following a heart event.
Information provided by Covenant Health.