Cardiac Rehab at Baptist Memorial Hospital Follows Pritikin Program

Mar 14 • 2019

Baptist Memorial Hospital Champions Pritikin Program for Heart Health

About 735,000 Americans suffer a heart attack each year. For many people, the thought of returning home from the hospital after a cardiac event is frightening. Some patients report feeling tired, weak or depressed, and most need help creating and managing a healthier lifestyle.

Four Baptist Memorial hospitals offer a supportive, outpatient cardiac program, called the Pritikin Intensive Care Rehabilitation Program, which helps patients recover from cardiovascular events or surgery.

Three Pillars of Cardiac Rehab

According to Donna Ray, registered nurse and manager of cardiac rehabilitation at Baptist Memorial Hospital-DeSoto, the Pritikin program is the gold-standard, follow-up approach to cardiac events.

“Our program is built on three pillars: healthy mindset, exercise, and education and nutrition,” said Ray. “We offer cooking workshops where we teach patients different spices to use for flavoring food. We teach patients how to exercise. We also have a social worker who leads healthy mindset workshops with them.”

In addition to providing nutrition education, cardiac care plans include rehabilitation that helps patients recover from surgery and manage illnesses. As part of their recovery from cardiac surgery, patients attend three, two-hour-a-day programs spanning 12 weeks. 

“They stay with us for two hours,” said Ray. “They exercise for one hour and then they either do the workshop or the cooking school, or they watch an educational video. We try to get patients to commit to a healthier lifestyle. The diet is low fat, low sugar and low salt. It’s also very low on animal protein but does have a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables and non-processed food.”

According to Ray, unhealthy habits, such as smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and lack of physical activity, can lead to cardiac events. A team of experts helps participants establish a plan to regain physical and emotional wellness starting on day one of the program.

“How are you going to maintain that healthy lifestyle? How are we going to change your lifestyle, so you can live healthier and increase your quality of life?” said Ray. “You get stronger through exercise. With an understanding of nutrition and eating healthier, you form a healthy mindset. You wrap your mind around what’s causing it.”

Supportive, Comprehensive Cardiac Rehab Services

Dr. Dharmesh Patel, a cardiologist with the Stern Cardiovascular Foundation, is the medical director for the program at Baptist DeSoto. Trained nurses, a registered dietitian and a social worker help patients set exercise goals and make healthier eating choices that can reduce the risk for future heart problems. Many patients see results within a few weeks.

Before welcoming the Pritikin program to Baptist DeSoto, Ray experienced its benefits firsthand.

“They put us through the whole program like we were patients,” said Ray. “At the end of the week, we had really decreased our cholesterol, and we lost weight. It was easy to buy into the program because it really worked.” 

For Ray, cardiac rehabilitation isn’t just part of her occupation—it hits close to home.

“My mother has had stents before, and heart disease is in my mother’s family,” said Ray. “I feel like it is very important to do this. I’ve been a nurse in the Baptist system for a long time, and I’ve always taken care of cardiac patients.”

In addition to compassionate care, Baptist’s cardiac rehabilitation program also offers one-on-one counseling with dietitians and pharmacists; access to treadmills, stationary bikes, NuStep cross trainers and an arm-and-hand ergometer; and a support system of cardiovascular patients working toward wellness together. The Pritikin cardiac rehab program is also offered at Baptist Memorial Hospital-Memphis, NEA Baptist Memorial Hospital and Baptist Memorial Hospital-Union City.

Learn more about heart and vascular care at Baptist. Find a doctor by visiting our Find a Physician page.