CONYERS, Ga. - Nearly one year ago, doctors at Piedmont Heart Institute told Bill Warner he likely would need a heart transplant. Warner, 65, suffered from cardiomyopathy (an enlarged heart) and his condition was causing his heart to fail.
“Very little blood was leaving his heart each time it beat,” Kelly McCants, MD, cardiologist at Piedmont Heart of Conyers, said. “This can be very serious and since he is still fairly young and otherwise healthy, Mr. Warner appeared to be a good candidate for a heart transplant. However, we needed to improve his strength before he underwent surgery, so I recommended he begin cardiac rehabilitation.”
Last June, Warner enrolled in Piedmont Newton Fitness Center’s monitored cardiac rehabilitation program, offered to patients who have had a heart attack or other cardiac episode within the last 12 months.
“Before, just getting from the parking lot into the fitness center was a struggle for me,” Warner said. “I was 40 pounds below what I normally weighed, I couldn’t keep any food down and I couldn’t even walk to my own mailbox. They had to keep me on the monitors for my first eight sessions and I could only walk on something flat because my heart was in such bad shape. I had waited too long to see a doctor about it.”
Months later, Warner is almost back to his normal weight and his heart continues to recover on its own. He completes a regular exercise program three times per week and recently learned he would no longer need to be considered for a heart transplant because of how much the weekly exercise has improved his health.
“The fitness center’s therapy program helped me get stronger,” Warned said. “My body has learned to adapt to the condition of my heart and how to properly function. It saved me and my wife from dealing with around two years of recovery if I did have to have a transplant, and it’s completely changed my life.”
“We’ve known about the benefits of exercise for people with heart failure for some time,” said Dr. McCants, who recommends patients work with their physician and cardiac rehabilitation team to come up with an exercise program that would be best for them. “Mr. Warner’s story is unique because he took charge of his health and saved his heart in the process.”
The number of people diagnosed with heart failure is projected to rise by 46 percent by 2030, according to the American Heart Association’s Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics Update. Symptoms of heart failure include swelling (most often in the feet, ankles, legs or abdomen), sudden weight gain, shortness of breath, lightheadedness and more. For more information, visit piedmont.org/heart.