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Retired minister on road to good health with Pritikin ICR Program

Retired minister on road to good health with Pritikin ICR Program

For Sam Steele, 72, a retired Presbyterian minister living in Hallsville, his heart health has been a constant concern for him and his family.

Fortunately, he is now receiving care from the Pritikin Intensive Cardiac Rehab (ICR) program at UT Health East Texas Rehabilitation Center.

“Heart disease runs in my family,” said Sam. “My father died of a heart attack during heart surgery. I had triple bypass surgery when I was 49 and then had stents implanted when I was 63.”

To complicate matters, Sam has Type 2 diabetes and takes medications for high blood pressure and cholesterol. Still, the cardiac event he had last October caught Sam and his wife Sara by surprise.

Cardiac care

“We were living in west Texas at the time and had just gotten home from preaching at church and a fellowship luncheon,” Sam explained. “I felt like I had some indigestion, but the pain persisted throughout the afternoon, so Sara called the ambulance. The EMT said my indigestion was actually a heart attack, so they airlifted me by helicopter to Odessa.”

Once at the Odessa hospital, the doctors performed a cardiac catheterization to look for blocked arteries. “They saw that the stents implanted ten years ago were blocked,” Sam said. “Since that hospital could not provide the additional care I needed, we decided to search for other options.”

Their search inspired them to move back to East Texas. Once settled, Sam connected with Ajay Pachika MD, FACC, a cardiologist at UT Health East Texas. Upon examination, Dr. Pachika scheduled an angioplasty for Sam’s main coronary arteries.

During this procedure, the doctor inserts a soft wire carrying a balloon and a stent into a catheter and passes them to the blockage in the coronary artery. The doctor then inflates the balloon to compress the blockage against the arterial wall. A stent is placed within the newly cleared area to keep the artery open and increase blood flow.

“Dr. Pachika will later perform an angioplasty on both of my legs to increase circulation,” said Sam. “He also recommended that I participate in the Pritikin Rehab program.”

Pritikin Intensive Cardiac Rehab (ICR)

The Pritikin Intensive Cardiac Rehab (ICR) program at UT Health East Texas Rehabilitation Center provides education and support for cardiac patients who need to create a healthier lifestyle.

Unlike traditional cardiac rehab programs that focus mainly on physical exercise, the Pritikin program promotes effective recovery through the use of three interconnected disciplines:

  1. Safe, effective exercise
  2. Balanced eating plan
  3. Healthy mindset

These disciplines are introduced to program participants through immersive workshops, cooking classes and professionally-produced videos. The curriculum can be tailored to fit individual needs and is designed to support a variety of learning styles.

Through Pritikin ICR, participants learn how to:

  • Implement significant lifestyle changes
  • Create a personalized nutrition and exercise plan
  • Lose weight using healthy, evidence-based strategies
  • Make heart-healthy food choices when cooking or dining out
  • Implement a variety of strategies for tobacco cessation (if needed)
  • Manage stress in their daily lives.

“The program’s focus on mind, body and spirit was life-changing for me,” said Sam. “It is so valuable that Sara and I make the two-hour round-trip drive to Tyler, three days a week just to exercise and take classes at the UT Health East Texas Rehabilitation Center. Everyone one of the staff, especially Clanton and Halley, are great to work with. I highly recommend the program.”

Healthier lifestyle

With the information they’ve learned from the Pritikin program, Sam and Sara have developed new ways to shop and prepare their daily meals.

“The Pritikin diet focuses on low fat, low salt and low sugar foods,” said Sara. “That means lots of fresh vegetables, fresh fruit, fish, chicken, turkey, rice, whole grains and beans. There are also cooking classes to show how to cook the meals, with an emphasis on stir-frying or air frying without using oil. You could air-fry a chicken breast for three meals a week, and by changing the spices you use, one night it could have an Italian taste or Southwestern or Indian.”

“Portion control is a big one for me,” admitted Sam. “We still go out to eat but I'm more selective on the menu and how much I eat. The other evening I ordered grilled chicken and a salad. I ate about half of it and I brought the other half home to eat later. As Allie at the Center says, ‘If you're craving something, don't deny that craving, just eat a small amount.’”

The foundation for the exercise program and new food choices is a healthy mindset supported by the love of one’s family.

“When I had the heart attack last year in west Texas, our youngest daughter drove out to see me in the Odessa hospital,” recalled Sam. “She said, ‘Daddy, ever since you were in high school, you’ve been preaching and working for God. We think it’s time for you to retire and do what you need to do to enjoy your retirement.’ She was absolutely right. That’s the family love and support that keeps me going,” he said.

Sam said that when he combines that spiritual support with the mental and physical workouts he does every week, he knows that he will continue to see results.

“Since I started the program, I've lost about 130 pounds,” he said. “My waistline is getting smaller and I enjoy going to the gym to work out. After we finish, Sara and I will look at each other and say, ‘That felt good!’”

For more information about UT Health East Texas Rehabilitation Center and the services offered, please call 903-596-3161 or visit our website.