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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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At The Heart Of Change Cardiac Program Promotes Pursuit Of Healthy Lifestyles

Rob Milligan Correspondent

Ray Cottle never thought it could happen to him. Sure, he smoked for 30 years and enjoyed a barbecued steak every now and then, but from his perspective, he was not in that bad of shape. Needless to say, he was shocked when his doctor informed him in March of 1995 that he had suffered a heart attack.

Cottle joined Spokane Cardio-Pulmonary Rehabilitation’s cardiac program two months after his attack, and his life has never been the same. The program did not change his life, but it gave him the tools to change it for himself.

The first few weeks after the heart attack were especially tough on Cottle. He could not walk around the block without an oxygen tank or lift anything heavier than 5 pounds. His doctor recommended he enter a cardiac rehabilitation program so he could get back on his feet.

Spokane Cardio-Pulmonary Rehabilitation, a private business, started in the late 1970s. The founders originally designed the cardiac sector exclusively for people who had experienced heart problems. Today, the cardiac program offers its services to those who never want to experience heart problems, in addition to those who have already experienced them - the largest group still represented.

There is a simple goal. “The mission of the program is to motivate people to change their lifestyles,” said Patty Krafft, a registered nurse and rehabilitation supervisor. “We try to point out that if they maintain the same lifestyles, they will have the same problems.”

The program’s central focus is exercise. “Exercise is important for the participants because it helps them lower their blood pressure and cholesterol level,” Krafft said. “We also try to make it (exercise) a lot of fun.”

The rehab center rents exercise facilities at three sites: Whitworth College, the YWCA and Greenacres Elementary School. Registered nurses and certified fitness instructors run the classes. Participants exercise three times a week. The typical program for people who have recently experienced heart problems lasts three months. Most insurance companies cover that, but many do not pay for the maintenance program, which costs $6 a class.

Although people are often frightened after experiencing heart problems, they do not usually sense the need for change, according to Kraft.

“People feel fine after their attacks, and they do not think they need to seriously change their lifestyles,” Krafft said.

Krafft should know. Her father has suffered two heart attacks.

Although Krafft’s father changed his lifestyle after his first attack, he soon went back to his old habits of smoking and not exercising. Twelve years later, he experienced another heart attack. Faced with the prospect of death, he has begun to make some enduring changes.

Although the program’s main focus is exercise, it also educates participants about other risk factors like diet and smoking.

“I like the all-encompassing nature of the program,” Cottle said.

The program offers a weekly educational class along with the exercise classes. A nutritionist recently came to Cottle’s class to teach the participants how to read food labels.

Although the individual must ultimately make the lifestyle change, the program encourages community and family support.

“If I was on my own, I would float,” Cottle said. “I wouldn’t make the commitment.”

Family members are encouraged to exercise with participants and attend the education classes.

Cottle thinks he has learned an important lesson.

‘You have to take care of your own health,” he said. “You shouldn’t be surprised if something happens to you if you are knowingly contributing to the problem.”

Cottle has come along so well that he walked Bloomsday for the first time last year.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo

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