Cardiac Rehab director at Tri-City talks heart health

Director of Cardiac Rehab of Tri-City Medical Center Dr. Karim El-Sherief shares that a new year can mean new health possibilities. Courtesy photo

Director of Cardiac Rehab of Tri-City Medical Center Dr. Karim El-Sherief shares that a new year can mean new health possibilities. Courtesy photo

At the start of 2018, many made plans to place health and wellness at the top of their list. On this self-improvement roster should be heart health.

“What I tell patients is, it is a new year. Our goal should always be about diet and exercise — being active is your greatest drug,” said Dr. Karim El-Sherief, MD, who specializes in intervention cardiology.

El-Sherief also serves as the current director of Cardiac Rehab at Tri-City Medical Center.

Even with an active lifestyle, El-Sherief said if something doesn’t feel right, act on it. Listening to your inner voice is important.

“Don’t ignore it — talk to somebody about it,” El-Sherief said. “Make sure you talk to your primary care doctor or if you have a cardiologist, make sure you tell them. Our goals a lot of times is just to reassure everybody that everything is OK and then to motivate them to maintain adequate levels of diet and exercise.”

Entering his fourth year with Tri-City, El-Sherief is one of the few cardiologists to serve the area, he said. While he sees patients at his private practice, he directs those who require care to Tri-City Medical Center.

Additionally, El-Sherief is one of the physicians that take “calls” at the hospital such as stent calls or heart attack calls. He also described Tri-City Medical Center as one of the few STEMI receiving centers in North County.

“We do a very efficient, thorough and successful job of having patients survive heart attacks and then transitioning them to our cardiac rehab program,” he said, adding that the rehab is for patients after heart attacks and surgeries. “They (patients) get evaluated by their primary cardiologist, and the goals are a monitored exercise program with data points, goals and teaching sessions.”

In turn, patients get stronger in an atmosphere of reassurance.

In addition to El-Sherief, the rehab program is staffed by nurses, exercise physiologists and a physician. Most patients receive 36 sessions.

A new generation of technology has also helped patients such as the 512 Slice CT Scanner. El-Sherief said the Tri-City Hospital Foundation played an invaluable role in funding and acquiring this cutting-edge technology.

“The 512 Slice CT Scanner allows us to use noninvasive modalities to help our population,” he said. “We can utilize the CT scanner as a quick evaluation, and it is a thorough evaluation that can prevent long hospital stays and can prevent invasive measures going forward.”

According to Glen Newhart, the president of the Tri-City Hospital Foundation, the area of cardiology will likely be a focus area in 2018.

“The Tri-City Hospital Foundation has supported cardiology efforts for many years including the funding of technology to help diagnose heart valve disease and also treat atrial fibrillation,” he said. “This is in addition to our ongoing financial support of the Cardiac Rehab program at Tri-City.”

Newhart also wants people to know Tri-City Medical Center is recognized by the American Heart Association for providing the highest quality of care through receiving a trifecta of gold awards.

In regard to technology, El-Sherief said he had used the 512 Slice CT Scanner multiple times and it has been quite successful.

Another emerging technology is the first leadless pacemaker by Medtronic. El-Sherief’s colleague, Dr. David Cohen, utilized it recently in North County. El-Sherief helped Cohen gain access to a patient who was a candidate for the microdevice.

“It (leadless pacemaker) allows us to do an implantation that’s relatively smooth and quick and prevents things like pocket infections, or infections of the chest,” he said. “The battery life is quoted around 12 years.” He added that the microdevice is durable and easy to place.

As far as El-Sherief is concerned, Tri-City Medical Center is focused on not only healing patients but also supporting them with cardiac rehab and future care. El-Sherief is passionate about cardiac rehab.

“My father had quintuple bypass surgery,” he said, adding that his father did not have rehab.

While his father did well, El-Sherief believes his father would have done better in the short term with cardiac rehab.

“It’s been well proven that patients who undergo cardiac rehab have better recoveries,” El-Sherief said. “Because not only in cardiac rehab are we trying to just heal the heart, we’re also trying to heal the mind, body and spirit.”

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