Courses get to the heart of the matter

Island Heart to Heart provides a series of two-hour classes on living with heart disease

Chuck Pusateri stands outside the Hillside Seniors Health Centre

Chuck Pusateri stands outside the Hillside Seniors Health Centre

When Chuck Pusateri had a heart attack, questions whirled through his brain.

The 41-year-old father of three had no health problems when the heart attack struck, leaving him wondering about changing his diet and how he exercised, how he could reduce stress, whether he should change jobs and just how much longer was his life going to be.

“There was just a whole myriad of things that went through my head.”

Pusateri found many of the answers through Island Heart to Heart, an organization he’s still associated with 22 years later.

“In fact, I did change jobs to some extent and I did start exercising differently and I did  start looking at food differently. I sort of started a journey over the last 22 years,” said the Saanich resident.

Island Heart To Heart operates out of the Hillside Seniors Health Centre attached to the Aberdeen Hospital, passing along information on the program to cardiac patients at Island hospitals.

“We know that there’s a lot of people who are missed because we don’t get to them in hospital or they don’t hear about it from their doctor so we’re trying to go out to the public and let them know it’s there,” said Pusateri, a director with Island Heart To Heart.

The program hosts a series of seven two-hour classes, offered 10 times a year. The classes feature talks from cardiologists, pharmacists, dieticians and others to help provide insight on living with heart disease.

“People learn things to help themselves,” said Pusateri, who underwent his third heart surgery back in October.

“After five days you leave the hospital and the hospital is very proud to have got you out in five days. But then you get home and you have a recovery – sometimes a long, painful recovery – and you start to look at, what do I do with the rest of my life, what’s the rest of my life going to be like, what can I do to help myself so that I never have to go through that again?”

Pusateri said the courses provide skills and coping mechanisms as well as answers to many of their questions.

“Some people have never done any physical activity, they don’t know one side of a rec centre from another,” he said. “How to eat, they’ve been eating the same way for 50 years, how do they become vegetarian? It’s just beyond them. But we kind of get them started through these classes, to pick out some things they can do to change their lives a little bit.”

He said the class of 30 or so people is also likely the first time many have been in a roomful of others who understood what they were going through.

The course costs $40 for an individual and $60 for a couple for the seven sessions.

“It’s not just for people that have had a heart problem,” said Pusateri. “We have some people in the class who know they have a family history of it and are trying to prevent a heart attack.”

 

For more information on the program, visit the website www.islandhearttoheart.ca.