While the world focuses on hearts and love during Valentine’s Day, there is a group of four individuals who dedicate themselves to the heart every day. North Arkansas Regional Medical Center is home to a team of registered nurses who lead the Cardiac Rehabilitation program.

Jerry Ezell, Tricia Padilla, Kim Tinsley, and Doris Youngs work tirelessly to develop and strengthen the hearts of patients with cardiovascular issues, ensuring they have a better quality of life.

The cardiac rehab program, spanning up to 36 visits, aims to help patients regain confidence and physical strength. Each patient typically visits three times a week for three months, fostering a close bond between the department and patients. Ezell, describing the program's goal, explains that they aim for a patient's heart rate to increase by 20 to 30 beats per minute over their resting rate, which is optimal for heart strengthening.

Patients are referred to cardiac rehab by a physician and undergo an initial interview to establish an individualized plan of care. This plan includes sessions with progressively increased exercise equipment resistance. The rehab gym boasts 21 pieces of equipment, including treadmills, bicycles, and ellipticals, all monitored to ensure patients' safety.

Before starting any exercise, patients are fitted with monitoring devices to track heart rate and rhythm. The program not only benefits patients physically but also emotionally, setting them up for long-term success with a heart-healthy lifestyle. Despite challenges, such as health issues or scheduling conflicts, most patients complete their 36 visits, realizing the benefits of regular exercise.

Cardiac rehabilitation is a mainstream treatment for heart disease, covered by most health insurance programs. Patients initially apprehensive about the program are reassured by the staff, who emphasize its benefits and the importance of lifelong commitment to cardiac health through diet, medication adherence, and exercise.

During National Heart Month, the team provides extra heart-healthy teachings and activities to keep patients focused on their goal of a healthier heart. Despite the seriousness of their work, the team maintains a lighthearted approach, creating a fun atmosphere to motivate patients.

Padilla sums up her dedication to the department, expressing love for the patients, staff, and the impact they make. For the cardiac team at NARMC, every month is heart month, and they are passionate about making a difference in their patients' lives.