How a Spokane man found hope after heart disease

SPOKANE, Wash. — February is American Heart Month and one Spokane pastor is a living testament to hope after heart disease.

Rick Haffner has been a patient at Providence St. Luke’s Rehabilitation Medical Center for eight years after having four heart bypasses.

He was actually an avid runner before his heart problems started and it was while he was out on a run that he realized something was wrong with his heart.

Haffner was in his 50’s when a serious heart issue sent him to the hospital to get four bypasses.

Turns out, he had coronary artery disease — meaning his liver produces too much cholesterol.

Haffner says heart disease runs in his family on both sides, but he didn’t think it’d happen to him until it did.

After his surgeries, he became an outpatient at Providence St. Luke’s in the Cardiac Rehabilitation Department, but only just started going in for rehab regularly.

He’s now 67-years old, 30 pounds lighter and says he’s never felt better.

“I feel better in the last four months since I’ve committed to being consistent with this program at St. Luke’s and they’ve helped me do that,” said Haffner. “They’ve taught me the importance of being consistent with it. Even if you’re taking small steps, be consistent with it and it’s the long run that benefits us.”

Doctors have helped Haffner slowly get back to running again — something he was afraid to do after his bypasses and getting stints in his heart.

He now goes to the rehab center for exercise, heart health education and mental health support three times a week, while doing the same routines at home three times a week as well.

Haffner’s Exercise Physiologist, Laura Wambold, says she’s proud of his progress.

She strongly recommends regular exercise for both recovering heart patients and for preventing heart disease as a whole.

“It’s important to be taking time for ourselves and for our heart health so whether that’s on the preventative side or whether we’re recovering from something, it’s important to be exercising regularly,” said Wambold. “Exercise is kind of the cornerstone of cardiac rehab, so we’re big promoters of consistent exercise and good nutrition.”

According to Wambold, a heart-healthy diet is similar to a standard healthy diet filled with fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

Low fat foods are the best option and you want to watch your trans fat and saturated fat intake especially.

Drink plenty of water and avoid foods that are processed and are high in salt and sugar.

For more information on Providence St. Luke’s Rehabilitation Medical Center and the Cardiac Department, see the official website.

Providence also shares information about Heart and Vascular health on its blog.

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