Ady’s Story: Although he’s a doctor, Ady didn’t realize he was having a heart attack

AdyAdy Kendler, MD, was at the gym, doing his regular exercise routine, when he had a heart attack.

“I started feeling an intense back pain. I thought I had pulled a muscle. Then I realized it was something more,” said Ady. “I asked them to call an ambulance.”

Ady, a surgical pathologist at UC Health, had what is called acute coronary artery syndrome, the blockage of an artery from a clot. It was successfully removed and there was no damage to his heart.In many ways Ady’s case is atypical. He was in good shape and wasn’t overweight, unlike many heart attack victims. Even though he is a doctor, he didn’t immediately think “heart attack.”

“It wasn’t like the textbooks with the classic description of a feeling that your chest is being crushed,” he says. It turned out Ady had a family history of heart problems and the cause was likely genetic. The prescription for his recovery program, however, was the same for nearly all heart attack patients these days: an immediate, regular exercise program in a controlled environment, otherwise known as cardiac rehabilitation.

“We want to get people exercising, but perhaps not immediately at the level they had been doing previously,” says Faisal Khan, MD, a cardiologist at West Chester Hospital and an assistant professor of cardiology at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. “Patients need to undergo continuous monitoring of blood pressure, heart rate, and signs of any arrhythmia.”

For heart attack patients, research shows exercise is as effective, if not more so, than any other intervention, such as medication. Indeed, the treatment plan for heart attack patients is almost opposite that of 20 or 30 years ago. At that time, patients were monitored in the hospital for days, even weeks, instructed to go home and “take it easy.” Now it’s “hit the treadmill.”

“The exercise that heart patients need is, in many ways, no different than what anyone should be doing all along,” Dr. Khan says. “It’s the same cardiovascular, aerobic workouts. The difference is that cardiac rehab takes place within a controlled environment where you can slowly increase the amount of exercise.”

There is often a psychological “catch-22” about exercise for cardiac rehab patients. They understand they need it, but have a fear of whether their repaired heart can handle it. Rehab can quickly bring a person’s confidence back. They soon realize they can safely exercise and by doing so, they are preventing additional heart problems.

The West Chester Hospital cardiac rehabilitation program is furnished with state-of-the-art equipment, including many things you see at a gym – treadmills, bicycles, ellipticals, and other exercise accessories.

Therapists first educate the patient at the bedside before hospital discharge, including information about diet, exercise and lifestyle modification. The second outpatient phase features a rehabilitation regimen tailored to a patient’s condition and closely monitored within the West Chester Hospital cardiac rehab unit. The third phase involves the patient following a continuing exercise program away from the hospital setting that does not require monitoring.

Ady says what worked best for him is the group therapy nature of being in a setting with people facing a similar problem. “I think the most important thing was having the support of the staff and other patients,” he says.

In the eight months since his heart attack, Ady says he’s back to his regular exercise routine. He says he learned the importance of managing stress, a problem common for people from all walks of life. “I realized exercise is not just good for your heart. It’s great to clear your mind.”

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