by Erin Wegner
In 2014, Christine Helms underwent a quintuple bypass after five of her major arteries to the heart were severely blocked. It was a very scary, emotional and confusing experience. After recovering from surgery and waking up in the hospital, thoughts and questions flooded Christine’s brain. What would she do now? Where would she go from here? Could she have a normal life again?
Thankfully, she was at Boone Hospital Center, where she immediately entered the hospital’s Cardiac Rehabilitation program. The program helps patients who have experienced a heart event or problem, including heart disease, cardiac interventions, surgery and peripheral vascular disease.
When Christine first participated in Cardiac Rehab, her care focused primarily on medically supervised exercise. She was thankful for the program, which helped improve her blood pressure, decrease her body fat, improve her good cholesterol while decreasing the bad cholesterol, and improve the blood flow to her heart muscle. She also received education about leading a healthy lifestyle. She was especially grateful for the Cardiac Rehab team, who monitored and encouraged her progress.
In 2019, Christine returned to Boone Hospital Center to have a stent replaced. She was excited to learn that this time around, she had an opportunity to participate in the hospital’s new Pritikin Intensive Cardiac Rehab program, also known as ICR.
The Pritikin ICR program came to Boone earlier this year and is approved by Medicare and many private insurance carriers. The program is based on three pillars that help participants embrace the keys to leading a healthy lifestyle: healthy eating, regular exercise and a healthy mindset.
Christine was excited to resume exercising with the Cardiac Rehab team, this time with added hands-on experience in nutrition and lifestyle education, including cooking classes, videos and presentations.
Nutrition, Pritikin’s first pillar, can play a large role in your recovery after a heart event. More time spent on nutrition education is important for a successful outcome. Christine and her husband Dale met one-on-one with a registered dietitian and attended cooking classes where they sampled healthy Pritikin-friendly recipes. Christine and Dale found the presentations and extra time learning new tricks in the kitchen to be very beneficial for her recovery.
When she was last in Cardiac Rehab, Christine received ideas and recipes to take home. Pritikin ICR expanded her nutritional knowledge with cooking demonstrations. She learned about plant-based protein and how to add flavor to her meals without adding sodium or fat.
Exercise, Pritikin’s second pillar, has always been a staple of Boone Hospital’s Cardiac Rehab program. For many patients, exercise may not have been part of daily life before their heart event. Getting regular exercise, understanding the importance of exercise, and committing to continued exercise after the program ends are keys to a successful journey.
Christine liked that her exercise routine was designed just for her, based on her abilities. She has a regular routine she follows on the exercise machines, and she is working hard to increase her strength and endurance.
When Christine first did Cardiac Rehab in 2014, Dale would sit and wait for her exercise sessions to finish. With Pritikin ICR, Dale comes with her three times a week and gets to exercise in the Fitness Center at no additional charge. The couple enjoyed working together in learning to make healthy lifestyle changes.
A healthy mindset is Pritikin’s third pillar and is critical to the program. ICR includes sessions about coping with stress, relaxation techniques like yoga, turning negative thoughts into positive ones and learning how to handle all of the emotions that follow after a heart event. Christine has found this part of the program to be very beneficial, increasing her awareness of what causes her stress and anxiety and learning new coping techniques. The mindset part of her ICR sessions have helped her think about her behaviors, evaluate her thoughts and realize she’s doing the right thing.
Christine enjoyed participating in Pritikin ICR and found the added education and focus on nutrition and mindset to be helpful in her recovery. But one thing remains the same between her two experiences – her favorite part was working with the staff. As she did in 2014, Christine found the ICR team to be friendly and nice every time she came, and says they made her experience that much more enjoyable.
Christine and Dale Helms have been married for 60 years. With 5 kids, they have many grandchildren and great-grandchildren that keep them very busy. In their free time, they love to bowl, garden, work in the yard and socialize at the Senior Center. Christine and Dale are both grateful that the Pritikin ICR program at Boone Hospital is helping them continue to lead an active life together.