Heart patient fights like a champ

Brad Smith of Coralville, Iowa, remembers clearly that Friday night in June 2011. He was up late watching a movie when he began feeling intense pain in both elbows.

Brad Smith
Brad Smith exercises at IRL CHAMPS.

Smith had finished a strenuous workout earlier in the evening, so he assumed it was simply muscle soreness. He took aspirin, which helped for a while, but the pain returned. He called his father, who suggested Smith go to the hospital, even if it was just tendonitis. At 2 a.m. Saturday, Smith went to the Emergency Treatment Center at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. After an initial examination, the medical team ran an electrocardiogram (EKG) on his heart.

Minutes later, the news came: Smith was having a heart attack. He was 43 years old.

“I thought I was in pretty good shape,” Smith says. “I hadn’t shown the ‘obvious’ symptoms, like pain radiating down my arms. No shortness of breath and no sweating—at least not until they told me I was having a heart attack!”

Smith had a blockage in one of the blood vessels to his heart—a coronary artery so small that a stent procedure to open the blockage wasn’t feasible. He was hospitalized for two days as doctors monitored his condition. Given a family history of heart disease, Smith has made heart health a priority. He takes medications to help control blood pressure, lower triglycerides (a type of fat in the bloodstream), and prevent blood clots that could cause another heart attack.

IRL CHAMPS facility
New Iowa River Landing CHAMPS facility

He’s also enrolled in CHAMPS (Cardiovascular Health, Assessment, Management, and Prevention Service) through UI Heart and Vascular Center. For more than 20 years, CHAMPS has provided cardiovascular rehabilitation and prevention services, working not only with patients who are recovering from heart disease or have had a heart procedure or surgery but also adults looking to improve their heart health and prevent future problems.

Patricia Lounsbury
Patricia Lounsbury, RN

“We all make choices every day that affect our cardiovascular health, and lifestyle factors—such as diet and nutrition, exercise, and stress reduction—play an important part,” says Patti Lounsbury, director of CHAMPS and a certified cardiac rehabilitation nurse. “Education is key, but so is having a partner. We help patients make—and maintain—the lifestyle changes necessary to better manage or prevent heart-related issues.”

Smith began outpatient cardiac rehabilitation through CHAMPS the day after he was home from the hospital. His 36-session program included a custom fitness program—patients are closely monitored by cardiac rehab specialists throughout their workouts—followed by classes related to disease management, nutrition, exercise safety, and stress management. He also continues to participate in a text-messaging program for CHAMPS patients with daily nutritional facts, stress-reduction tips, and reminders about taking time to exercise. As a sales representative who spends several days each week on the road, Smith finds the texts invaluable.

“It helps you stay connected to the program and your overall goals,” he says. “There have been days where I’m sitting in the hotel thinking, I’ve worked a full day, I’ve got no motivation. Then I’d get a text message saying, ‘Text back to us how many minutes you’ve exercised today.’ That’s all it would take to get me up and off to the hotel’s fitness center.”

Thanks to the CHAMPS classes, Smith now stays only at hotels that offer exercise facilities. And he has revised his workout regimen. Before the heart attack, Smith focused primarily on weightlifting. Now he commits an hour to cardiovascular exercise on the treadmill or elliptical machine before following up with any strength training. And when it comes to eating right, Smith applies what he’s learned, especially when he’s traveling on business.

“Carol (Throckmorton, a UI Heart and Vascular Center dietician) helped me understand that in order to fulfill my dietary needs, I can’t walk into any chain

Carol Throckmorton
Carol Throckmorton, BS, RD/LD CLC

restaurant,” Smith says. “It takes a bit more planning and effort, but I’ve learned to identify non-chain establishments. I’ve learned how to ask the wait staff about how they prepare their menu items and if special requests—low-sodium, for example—are an option. It’s easy.”

Smith has lost nearly 20 pounds over the past year. He has more energy, and he’s confident he’s on the path to a heart-healthy future—thanks to his CHAMPS partners. “They educate and motivate, and that’s what I needed,” he says.

Visit CHAMPS online or call 319-356-4652 for more information.

CHAMPS AT IOWA RIVER LANDING: In addition to UI Hospitals and Clinics, CHAMPS is now available at UI Health Care—Iowa River Landing in Coralville. Services there include:

  • Outpatient cardiac rehabilitation, a 36-session program for patients who have recently had a heart attack, heart bypass, heart valve surgery, stent placement, or other cardiovascular procedure.
  • Maintenance program for patients who have completed the outpatient cardiac rehab program. Participants exercise at CHAMPS independently and may choose to have their blood pressure taken before and after exercise. They may also have their exercise workloads and durations recorded for their doctors.

To learn more, visit CHAMPS online or call 319-356-4652.

–Winter 2012-13