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Cardiac Rehabilitation Center Celebrates First Birthday with Nearly 300 Graduates


By Michelle Brubaker   |   February 27, 2019

​Malcolm Tovey has a history of diabetes and heart disease, which led him to a recent bypass surgery at the Cardiovascular Institute at UC San Diego Health. “When I got home from the hospital, I could barely make it from the car to my front door. It took several weeks to recover,” said Tovey. “During a follow-up appointment, my doctors recommended that I enter the cardiac rehabilitation program, and I quickly agreed.”

The Step Family Cardiovascular Rehabilitation Wellness Center is dedicated to the prevention of cardiovascular disease. Housed in Jacobs Medical Center at UC San Diego Health, the center offers state-of-the-art exercise and monitoring equipment, exam rooms, a specialized teaching kitchen and multipurpose room — all designed to enhance patients’ health and lives.

Malcolm Tovey

“Studies have shown that when patients enroll in cardiac rehabilitation, they have a significantly lower re-admission rate, they live longer and have less incidences of heart attacks and cardiovascular disease,” said Pam Taub, MD, director of the Step Family Cardiovascular Rehabilitation Wellness Center and cardiologist at the Cardiovascular Institute at UC San Diego Health.

The cardiac rehab center is celebrating its first birthday with 283 graduates of the program. The center is one of the largest intensive cardiac rehabilitation programs in the nation and is doing innovative research, such as a National Institutes of Health-sponsored heart study looking at how the addition of peer-led programs to standard cardiac rehab can improve outcomes.

“We are excited and proud to celebrate a year of accomplishments,” said Taub. “Our graduates are so grateful, and our staff is honored to be part of their lives and watch them transform through healthy living.”

Patients start the nine-week program with a medical evaluation to determine their needs and any limitations they may have. This information is then used to customize a program that includes exercise, nutrition, counseling and education to promote heart-healthy living.

“I have been blown away by the program and my results. I am learning how to eat a healthy diet, read food labels and meditate. I walk a total of 10,000 steps a day. I have lost 20 pounds in five weeks,” said Tovey, a former soccer player and coach. “I stopped taking my short-acting insulin medications because my blood sugars became too low. My goal is to stop taking other medications that I am on. I feel like I am starting to win the battle against diabetes and heart disease with the support of this amazing program.”

UC San Diego Health is the only program in San Diego to offer Ornish Lifestyle Medicine to intensive cardiac rehabilitation patients. The program includes stress management, support groups and nutrition, focusing on a low-fat, whole foods, plant-based eating plan.

Alexandra Salcedo is a registered dietitian at UC San Diego Health, where she educates patients about healthy foods and meal planning through cooking demonstrations. “My goal is to provide the necessary tools and knowledge to change patients eating habits by redefining healthy eating with great tasting recipes. I want patients to feel empowered and confident to continue on their quest for healthy living once they complete the program.”

Tovey has taken all he has learned to heart. “I am eating four to six small meals a day full of fruits and vegetables,” said Tovey. “The care and attention I received from my cardiologist, Dr. Taub, and cardio-thoracic surgeon, Dr. Michael Madani, are the reason I am still alive today. They encouraged me to attend the Ornish program, and it has been life-changing.”

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