Fit, Well, & Healthy enough to Roam

Almost 20 years! That’s how long I’ve been the Director of the Cardiac Rehab program at Southwest Hospital in McComb.  

I’ve been so blessed by the people I’ve met and worked with that I wanted to spread the love to a little wider audience so I talked with the good people at the Enterprise-Journal Newspaper about starting this column titled Fit, Well, & Healthy.  Each week for the past year I’ve done short articles about health and wellness news, pro-tips, and anecdotes that I’ve gleaned over the past couple of decades at rehab.

Now that the Fit, Well, &Healthy column has been running for a year in the Enterprise-Journal Newspaper, I figured to start reprinting the articles here with a little updating and reformatting. The material from Fit, Well, & Healthy dovetails perfectly here at because Roaming is good for your Wellness – and Health and Fitness are necessary to Roam.

If you discover that you enjoy these Fit, Well, & Healthy articles here on each week and you don’t have to wait a year to read new articles, consider getting an online subscription to the Enterprise-Journal Newspaper.

Cardiac Rehab is a several-week program of monitored, supervised exercise, education, and counselling for people who have had heart injuries or surgeries.  The general goals of a cardiac rehab program are to get the participants more fit, and to reduce their chances of worse heart problems in the future. 

Cardiac rehab is really good at those goals.  Statistically, our graduates reduce their heart attack risk by about 20%. That level of risk reduction is as good as the benefit from the best heart medicines on the market.  Patients tell us that they feel much better after rehab.  Many of them are able to do 2-3 times more physical activity after completing the program, and most report a drastic reduction in the stress, depression, and anxiety that accompanies traumatic heart injuries and surgeries.

In fact, cardiac rehab outcomes are so excellent that cardiac rehab has become a standard of care.  That means physicians now regularly prescribe cardiac rehab for nearly all of their patients who have had heart attacks or heart surgeries.

This was not always the case.  The first widely-publicized instance of cardiac rehabilitation in the United States was President Ike Eisenhower.  In 1955, President Eisenhower had a severe heart attack.

Back then there was no such thing as cardiac rehab.  The experts thought that if you managed to survive a heart attack your health would be fragile for the rest of your life.  You were basically consigned to the bed or the couch until you died because everyone knew that your condition was so tenuous.

Fortunately, Eisenhower had a very forward-thinking physician by the name of Paul Dudley White.  Contrary to the common wisdom of the time, Doctor White prescribed an exercise program for the President consisting of swimming, fishing, walking, and golfing – and it worked!  

Eisenhower rehabilitated himself back into the most stressful job in the world and became the first celebrity poster child for cardiac rehabilitation. Eisenhower would survive six more heart attacks as well as multiple strokes over the course of the next thirteen years before dying at home with his family at age 78.

Doctor White went on to start the American Heart Association and it is said that Doctor White’s rehabilitative success with President Eisenhower was the inspiration for Lyndon B. Johnson to return to politics after his own 1955 heart attack. 

Before our heart hospital and rehab opened  20 years ago if you had a heart attack in southwest Mississippi  it meant being rushed 90 miles by ambulance to Jackson or Hattiesburg.  If your physician did prescribe cardiac rehab, you would have to drive back and forth to Jackson or Hattiesburg several times per week for months.  Needless to say, cardiac rehab was an impractical impossibility for most of the residents of Southwest Mississippi.

Now, you don’t have to be the President of the United States, you don’t have to live in a metropolitan area, and you don’t have to spend three hours per day just driving back and forth to rehab.

It sure is a blessing to have your physicians and your rehab professionals live in the same place your heart lives!

Patrick Parker is the Director of the Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation program at the Cardiovascular Institute of Mississippi in McComb.  Visit to see more of what Dr. Parker does to stay Fit, Well, & Healthy.