When people experience a heart attack or other heart issues, they want to recover and often look for ways to prevent a recurrence.

Intensive Cardiac Rehabilitation (ICR), offered by the Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin health network, goes beyond standard cardiac rehabilitation to offer comprehensive healthy diet and mindset education that can improve quality of life and increase life expectancy. The Froedtert & MCW health network is the only health system in Wisconsin to offer the Pritikin ICR Program.

Bruce Matter, 63, of New Berlin, Wisconsin, was determined to make changes in his life. The retired sewer worker experienced chest pain in summer 2019. His wife, Kathy, called emergency responders, who took Bruce to the Froedtert Hospital Emergency Department. A stress test revealed Bruce was having a significant coronary problem.

“When I got off the treadmill, I couldn’t breathe,” Bruce said. “That’s where I folded.”

Fortunately, Michael Cinquegrani, MD, interventional cardiologist and MCW faculty member, was in the room next door and took Bruce to the catheterization laboratory immediately, placing a stent in an artery in Bruce’s heart to increase blood flow and allow him to breathe.

During his recovery, staff recommended ICR to Bruce. Determined to live a healthier life, Bruce attended all 36 sessions (72 hours) of the ICR program at Froedtert West Bend Hospital, exercising regularly and attending healthy mindset workshops and cooking demonstrations.

“We want participants to think about their recovery in a holistic way,” said Patricia White, ICR healthy mindset expert. “We focus not only on patients’ physical recovery, but also on their emotional well-being.”

Bruce and Kathy also learned healthy eating habits through cooking demonstrations, workshops and 1-on-1 nutritional counseling.

“We focused on reducing sodium intake, calorie density and the quality over quantity of food,” said Alyssa Riesen, registered dietitian in the ICR Program. “His success reflects how committed he was to dietary changes.”

At the time of Bruce’s heart attack, he weighed 270 pounds. After ICR, Bruce was 40 pounds lighter, thanks to exercise and a health-minded attitude and diet.

“This program showed me a different way of living life,” Bruce said. “I’d recommend it to anybody who has had a heart attack. If you want to stay alive, you have to change.”

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