HEALTHY LIVING: Cardiac rehab program provides support and fitness for people with heart issues

By Ashley Kus, Record-Journal staff

MERIDEN – The cardiac rehab program at the Meriden YMCA is a familiar routine for 84-year old Sal Cricco, who has been a participant for two decades.

“I felt a lot better because of doing all the exercises,” said Cricco, who retired from the Wallingford Fire Department.

The Wallingford resident regularly attends the one-hour support and fitness classes three times a week, along with others who were referred to the program by doctors after heart attacks and strokes.

“It’s a family situation,” said lead instructor Phyllis Drescher of the support the program provides. “A lot of them have been here for many years.”

For Cricco, it started in the late-90s after he suffered an angina attack, a precursor to a heart attack.

"To me it was serious because I had the problem and I never knew about it until it hit me,” he said.

A back injury took Cricco out of the field as a firefighter and put him behind a desk as a dispatcher, where he became less active.

“I never got too much exercise,” he said of his time as a dispatcher.

After spending time in the hospital, Cricco was referred to the rehab program and started working out regularly. He’s only missed two weeks in the last 20 years and that was because of a hip replacement. 

“I never had any problems after that,” he said of his heart health. “I do the treadmill for twenty minutes straight just to get my heart rate up and it’s paid off.”

The program works with the cardiologists at MidState Medical Center to help patients recover and stay proactive.

The cardiac rehab sessions start with the recording of participants’ resting pulses before moving into a warm-up routine.

Cricco and others in the program then do 20 minutes of cardio on the treadmills or stationary bikes followed by weight training.

Pulses are recorded again in the middle of the workouts. Finally the resting pulse is checked at the end of the class to make sure it matches the beginning pulse.

“If they come three times a week you can see where their confidence builds up, their stamina builds up,” said Anne Morenz, a program instructor. “We’re very social and that helps more than anything.”

Cricco said he has made many friends at the YMCA throughout the years.

“To exercise three times a week rather than staying home and doing nothing has its benefits,” he said. “I’ll come here as long as I am able.”

For photos and video of this Cardiac Rehab program, click on this link to the Record Journal article.
Twitter: @KusReporter

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