ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Know Your Asthma Triggers
Combating Myths About Seasonal Allergies
Obesity May Raise Kids' Allergy Risk
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Meditation May Boost Short-Term Visual Memory
Indigo Ointment Benefits Psoriasis Patients
Regular Yoga May Improve Eating Habits
ANIMAL CARE
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
Rest Easy. When It Comes to Swine Flu, Your Pet Is Safe
Animals Respond to Acupuncture's Healing Touch
BONES & JOINTS
'Snowbirds' Beware the Climate Changes
Majority of College Students Report Backpack-Related Pain
Pain More a Cause of Arthritis Than a Symptom
CANCER
Green Tea May Help Prevent Oral Cancer
Lifting Weights Can Ease Arm Swelling in Breast Cancer Survivors
Breast Self-Exam Rates Go Up With Counseling
CAREGIVING
Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome as Deadly as Ever
Study Links Pesticides to Birth Defects
Mom's Smoking May Lead to SIDS
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Review Confirms Links Between Diet, Heart Health
Secondhand Smoke Quickly Affects Blood Vessels
Drink a Little Wine, Live a Little Longer
COSMETIC
Mouse Study Finds Molecule That Tells Hair to Grow
Gum Chewing May Cut Craving for Snacks
Study Evaluates Laser Therapies for Hair Removal
DENTAL, ORAL
Gum Disease Treatment Doesn't Cut Preterm Birth Risk
Laser Technology Spots Cavities Before They Start
Acid Drinks Blamed for Increase in Tooth Erosion
DIABETES
Fructose-Sweetened Drinks Up Metabolic Syndrome Risk
Red-Grape Compound May Improve Diabetes
Findings Challenge Tight Glucose Control for Critically Ill Patients
DIET, NUTRITION
Leafy Greens Top Risky Food List
Blueberry Drink Protects Mice From Obesity, Diabetes
Coffee Beans May Be Newest Stress-Buster
DISABILITIES
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Pollution Particles Impair Blood Vessel Function
City Kids Find the Breathin' Is Easier Elsewhere
Ozone-Depleting Inhalers Being Phased Out
EYE CARE, VISION
Vision Test for Young Children Called Unreliable
Thyroid Problems Boost Glaucoma Risk
Just Like Skin, Eyes Can 'Burn' in Strong Sun
FITNESS
Daily Exercise at School Yields Rewards
Run for Your Life
Football Can Shrink Players
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Olive Oil May Protect Against Bowel Disease
Gum Chewing May Speed Colon Surgery Recovery
Bowel Prep Harder on Women Than Men
GENERAL HEALTH
Keep Safety in Mind While Your Kids Are Cooling Off in the Water
After Job Loss, People Report More Health Issues
Treat symptoms (result of disease) or diagnose systems (cause of disease)?
HEAD & NECK
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Study Suggests Link Between Cell Phones and Brain Tumors
E-Mailing Your Way to Healthier Habits
Combating Myths About Seasonal Allergies
HEARING
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Arteries Age Twice as Fast in Smokers
Shedding Light on Why Omega-3 Fatty Acids May Help the Heart
Fatty Fish May Cut Heart Failure Risk in Men
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Surgical Masks Could Prevent Flu, Maybe
The HPV Vaccine: Preventative Medicine or Human Sacrifice?
Hand Washing 10 Times a Day May Help Keep Flu Away
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Boosting Kids' Stroke IQ May Save Lives
Guard Kids' Eyes Against Long-Term Sun Damage
More Calcium And Dairy Products in Childhood Could Mean Longer Life
MEN'S HEALTH
Exercise May Prevent Prostate Cancer: Study Shows
Whole Grains, Bran May Fight Hypertension in Men
Low Vitamin D Levels May Boost Men's Heart Attack Risk
MENTAL HEALTH
Brain Scans Show How Humans 'Hear' Emotion
Breast-Fed Baby May Mean Better Behaved Child
Bullying Seems to Affect Kids Years Later
PAIN
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Breast-Feeding May Protect a Woman's Heart
Alternative Treatments May Boost IVF Success
Pregnant Women Exposed To Certain Pollutants Could Lower Childs IQ
SENIORS
Life Expectancy in U.S. Hits New High
Tai Chi and Qigong Offer Many Health Benefits: Review
The Healthy Habits of Centenarians
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Pay Attention to Signs That Say You're Too Fatigued to Drive
Meditation May Help Put Primary Insomnia to Bed
Sleeping Could Help Women Lose The Baby Fat
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Postmenopausal Women With Breast Cancer Face Joint Issues
Acupuncture May Relieve Acid Indigestation In Pregnancy
Acupuncture May Ease Depression During Pregnancy
Add your Article

Man's Best Friend Helps Mend Broken Hearts

Some recovering heart patients are getting a new "leash" on life as they gain strength by walking dogs housed at a local shelter.

The innovative program, called Cardiac Friends, is a partnership between ProHealth Care (PHC) and Humane Animal Welfare Society (HAWS) of Waukesha County, in Wisconsin.

"It's a great way to help the dogs and also help our patients too," said Jennifer Ehrhardt, a clinical exercise physiologist at PHC's Waukesha Memorial Hospital.

Motivating patients to get active and stay active can be challenging, she noted. But the year-old Cardiac Friends program gives animal aficionados recovering from open heart surgery, stent implantation or angioplasty a compelling reason to work out.

"We want to get people up and exercising as quickly as they can after they have some sort of heart procedure, if it's OK'd by their doctor," said Ehrhardt.

Exercise not only reduces the risk of another cardiac event but lowers cholesterol levels, decreases blood pressure and wards off depression -- a funk many people fall into when recovering from heart surgery, she said.

Any kind of aerobic activity a patient does is beneficial to their health, Ehrhardt added. "If people have treadmills or bikes in their house we encourage them to use that," she said. "But walking is a great way for people to get that activity in, and it doesn't cost them anything."

A handful of cardiac patients -- so far, all men in their 70s -- visit HAWS three times a week for an hour or more, taking dogs outside for some fresh air and fun.

Fenced-in areas on the property allow volunteers to play fetch with their canine charges, or they can take a stroll on a dirt walking path that zigzags through an open meadow adjacent to the shelter.

"We all enjoy the dogs and I think the dogs enjoy us," said Charles Christenson, a retired corporate pilot who had open heart surgery three years ago.

Christenson said he has a treadmill at home but never uses it. Instead he prefers working out at the hospital's gym and spending time at the shelter interacting with its canine residents.

"When you [first] take these little rascals out, they're scared," he said. "But if you talk nice to them, and treat them nice, pretty soon they're your best buddies."

Christenson and the other men in the program are some of shelter coordinator Sara Falk's favorite volunteers because they spend so much time with the dogs.

"The Cardiac Friends have been a huge bonus to [our dog-walking] program in that most of them have been so consistent and they are taking longer walks than a lot of the other walkers because they have fitness in mind," said Falk.

The patients aren't the only ones benefiting. Getting dogs out of their kennels daily helps keep them physically and mentally sound while waiting for new homes, she said.

Interest in Cardiac Friends is beginning to create a buzz. Susan Kidder, an animal rescue advocate and founder of the program, has received inquiries from shelters in Arizona and California. And this fall, PHC's Ehrhardt will give a presentation about the program at a national health care conference in hopes that other hospitals will start similar efforts.

"It's a great fit for people who can't have a pet because of their living situation," explained Kidder, adding that the program is about much more than just helping cardiac patients stay active. "It's about helping. It's about being needed. It's about making a difference."

SOURCES: Jennifer Ehrhardt, clinical exercise physiologist, ProHealth Care Waukesha Memorial Hospital, Waukesha, Wisc.; Susan Kidder, founder, Cardiac Friends; Sara Falk, volunteer coordinator, Humane Animal Welfare Society of Waukesha County, Wisc.; Charles Christenson, Waukesha, Wisc. Published on: March 30, 2010