Patient Stories

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The Power of Healing Your Heart
By Jean Graham

Steven Brown of Beverly is a survivor. He suffered a heart attack a few years ago, and since then, he’s taken steady steps on the road to recovery. In addition to completing North Shore Medical Center’s Cardiac Rehabilitation Program, Brown decided that he needed to do more to change his life and try to prevent further damage to his heart. So he joined NSMC’s Healing Your Heart program, led by retired NSMC cardiologist Harvey Zarren, M.D..

Coronary heart disease has been the number one killer of Americans both male and female since 2004 according the American Heart Association and the Centers for Disease Control reports that heart disease is the leading cause of death in Massachusetts.

In 1991 and after decades in practice as a cardiologist at NSMC Union Hospital, Dr. Zarren noticed that some of his patients needed additional support and more than traditional treatments to make a dramatic difference in their health. Armed with the inspiration of the nationally known Dr. Dean Ornish, who is an expert in holistic and natural treatments, Dr. Zarren launched the Healing Your Heart Program. The program has helped hundreds of patients learn more about natural cures for heart disease, such as stress management, exercise and nutrition. The program is designed to help prevent, treat and reverse heart disease.

The program meets once a week, on Thursday evenings and costs $15 per class, which is not covered by insurance. There is a ten-week core curriculum that is structured so that people can enter the program at any time. Patients can, however, attend as many meetings as needed to successfully make changes as they seek.

NSMC’s 12-week Cardiac Rehabilitation Program teaches patients about heart health, exercise, nutrition and stress management skills to help patients more fully recover from a heart attack or surgery and adopt strategies to help live a more heart-healthy lifestyle. "Healing Your Heart picks up where Cardiac Rehab leaves off for patients who need more peer support," said Dr. Zarren. "We reinforce the skills they learned in Cardiac Rehab, combine it with yoga and meditation and give them the opportunity to share their feelings with and get support from others who are experiencing the same issues."

"The program has helped me manage my anger better through methods of breathing and often taking a step back before reacting. My blood pressure has decreased and my stress is more manageable throughout the day, which helps me in all aspects of my life, at work and at home," says Brown. He completed the program several years ago, and still attends when he needs to refocus.

In each class, patients begin with a process of centering and finding a focus to let go of the stresses of the outside world and to focus on being present, in the moment. Then they move into simple yoga positions to increase flexibility, pay attention to their breathing and their bodies and to quiet their emotions. After that brief workout, patients discuss their challenges of living with heart disease, such as how to find restaurants with heart- friendly menus and how to cope with emotional stress in a positive way. The group shares physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and social aspects of heart health and attendees’ support each other to make the changes each person needs.

For registration and information, contact Harvey Zarren, M.D., at 781-477-3505.

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