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Rice rehab center celebrates milestone, kicks off Heart Month

Robert and Dorothy Fransen of Willmar, left, talk with Lori Roelofs of Prinsburg as they view the "Heart Art" wall display created by Central Minnesota Christian School students and displayed during the Cardiac Rehab Center's open house. Tribune photo by Ron Adams

Guests at Rice Memorial Hospital's Cardiac Health and Rehabilitation open house and art show Thursday afternoon browsed through handmade valentines, sampled heart-healthy cookies and checked out the new fitness equipment acquired for the cardiac health program's gym.

It was a chance to showcase the program and resources for promoting cardiac health, and kick off a month's worth of special activities.

Not only is February American Heart Month, but the heart program also reached the 20-year mark last year, said Kellie Prentice, cardiac rehabilitation coordinator.

"We say we're celebrating our 20-plus anniversary," she said. "That was what sparked the idea. We thought having the artwork would be cross-generational so we could also talk to kids about heart health. We thought that would give a new dimension and a reason for people to come."

A gallery of heart-themed art by students at Central Minnesota Christian School in Prinsburg lined the hall. Valentines designed by Prinsburg students and the Willmar School District's After-School Art Club were arrayed in baskets. Proceeds from selling the art and valentines will benefit the Rice Health Foundation's cardiac care fund.

Advances in treatment and quicker access to definitive treatment have helped more people survive longer with heart disease, Prentice said.

Still, heart disease affects thousands of Minnesotans -- both men and women, she said. "One in three women have heart disease."

And most of the major risk factors -- diet, stress, inactivity, age, genetics -- haven't significantly changed, Prentice said.

"Even though we have better treatment, it's still there," she said.

After a heart attack, cardiac rehab helps these people regain their health and, if necessary, become better educated so that they can retool their life and reduce the risk of another heart attack.

Registered nurse Jeanne Boller said the program has worked with patients from age 20 to 90.

About 100 new patients join the program each year. Another 30 people or so participate each month in cardiac maintenance.

It's access to resources that people might not otherwise have, such as blood pressure checks, meetings with a dietitian, pharmacist and social worker, and supervision by trained nurses.

The social and emotional aspects of recovering from a heart attack are important to address, Boller said. "It's a supportive atmosphere. People become friends with each other."

Then there are those sleek treadmills, exercise bikes and elliptical trainers.

Randy Kobienia, exercise physiologist for the program, said nearly all of the equipment, purchased with grant money, is new. In some cases, it replaces treadmills that were 15 years old, he said.

"It's a complete upgrade of what we had," he said.

One of the machines is handicapped-accessible so that someone in a wheelchair can be rolled up to get exercise, he said. The new rowing machine is set higher off the floor so that it's easier to use for people with arthritis or limited mobility.

"That's been the biggest change -- the adaptability to the population we see," Kobienia said. "We've got many other options for them."

Rice Hospital will be celebrating Heart Month all month long with several additional events. On "It's Your Health," a series of talks on KDJS Radio every Saturday morning from 8:30 to 9, learning how to recognize cardiac emergencies will be the topic this Saturday, and "How to make your heart happy" will be featured Feb. 14.

There will also be a community health presentation on heart health at 1:30 p.m. Feb. 19 at the Willmar Community Center.