Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center celebrates 30th anniversary of cardiac rehabilitation program

Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center is commemorating the 30th anniversary of its West Orange-based outpatient cardiac rehabilitation program, a testament to the center’s unwavering commitment to heart health and patient well-being.

Since its inception in 1993, the program has continuously evolved to meet the changing needs of patients, making significant advancements in cardiovascular care.

This medically supervised program is designed to benefit patients recently hospitalized or undergoing specific treatment for coronary heart disease. It empowers cardiac patients to take an active role in improving their heart health, emphasizing the importance of lifestyle modification, including exercise and dietary choices, as critical aspects of optimal long-term well-being.

“In 1993, I noticed that many patients struggled to absorb information during their hospital stays due to stress,” Maureen Smith, the program director, and a cardiac care nurse, said. “Our program aims to bridge this gap, providing patients with the tools they need to take control of their health.”

The program has grown exponentially from its beginnings with four patients per hour to a comprehensive outpatient facility in West Orange that now serves up to 16 patients per hour. Its team, including six critical care nurses, exercise specialists, administrators, and a dietitian, collaborate to provide holistic patient care.

Smith emphasized the program’s focus on diet, exercise and behavior modification to reduce cardiac risk factors. The program primarily serves patients who have undergone heart attacks, stenting or valve repairs, and it is open to individuals from various hospitals. Physicians from institutions like Mount Sinai and NYU Langone Health frequently refer patients to the program.

Dr. Gary Rogal, medical director of cardiovascular services for RWJBarnabas Health, echoed the importance of patient education and empowerment in managing cardiovascular diseases influenced by lifestyle factors. He emphasized the program’s positive impact on patients’ quality of life and overall longevity, especially for heart attack and congestive heart failure patients.

“Cardiac rehab reinforces the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle, including exercise and a Mediterranean diet,” Rogal said. “Our team closely monitors patients’ progress and promotes exercise to reduce cardiovascular problems in the future.”

Rogal also said exercise offers benefits such as building lung capacity and muscle mass and improving the vascular system, which is key to efficient and effective heart function. It also aids in lowering blood pressure and improving metabolic function, which helps with diabetes control.

“An emerging area in cardiac science involves inflammation, and diet may directly affect inflammation in the cardiovascular system,” Rogal added.

As the program celebrates its 30th anniversary, Rogal envisions the future of cardiac rehabilitation, including “prehab” programs and preventive measures for those at risk of cardiac events due to factors like family history.

Cooperman’s cardiac rehabilitation program is one of several cardiac services offered at the hospital, including Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement, noninvasive cardiac imaging, advanced echocardiography techniques, diagnostic and interventional cardiac catheterization, peripheral vascular services and open-heart surgery.