For the media

Cardiac rehab after a heart attack

By The Health News Team | February 28, 2023
Michael Carteron Sharp Grossmont Hospital Cardiac Patient

Michael Carteron turned to cardiac rehabilitation to restore his heart health after being treated for a heart attack.

Michael Carteron, age 57, enjoys traveling with his wife, going for walks with his puppy and rooting for the San Diego Padres. But life came to a standstill in June 2022 when he had a heart attack.

Taken by ambulance to Sharp Grossmont Hospital, doctors quickly assessed Michael’s condition and placed a stent in a blocked artery to restore blood flow to his heart.

“Most of it is a blur,” recalls Michael. “But I remember that I arrived in the emergency room, and a cardiologist was called. Within a half hour I was in the cath lab undergoing surgery.”

Michael spent three days in the intensive care unit before being discharged. But getting back to daily life was a struggle. So Michael’s doctors encouraged him to participate in Sharp Grossmont Hospital’s Cardiac Rehabilitation Program to help him gradually regain strength and stamina, and learn how to reduce the risk of cardiovascular issues in the future. He attended the one-hour exercise sessions three days a week.

“My first day in cardiac rehab, I just wanted to take a nap,” recalls Michael. “I was on a lot of medications to help my heart heal and was just tired.”

But Michael didn’t lose hope or motivation. He worked with the program’s trained specialists, engaging in exercises on various types of machines, including the treadmill and stationary bicycle.

Alex Angeli, an exercise physiologist with the program, recalls Michael was an excellent participant.

“We established specific and attainable goals during the initial assessment,” Angeli says. “He continued to challenge himself with our guidance and was willing to try interval training to help achieve his goals. By the end of cardiac rehab, Michael felt comfortable hiking with his family and joined our team in the 5K San Diego Heart Walk.”

A healthy mind can promote a healthy heart

Along with exercising and a heart-healthy diet, Michael’s care team taught him relaxation techniques. According to Angeli, many patients experience feelings of frustration, anxiety, fear, anger and depression while recovering from a life-changing event such as a heart attack.

“Learning to identify and accept these emotions is an important component of our program,” Angeli says. “We promote the use of healthy coping mechanisms, mindfulness practices, stress management techniques, community resources and appropriate social support. A positive and proactive attitude is key in our patient’s success during rehabilitation and beyond.”

Michael was introduced to various stress-relieving practices, including breathing exercises, which can help lower stress and anxiety. “It causes physiological changes that include lowering your blood pressure and heart rate and reducing the stress hormone levels in your blood,” says Norma McDonald, lead registered nurse for Sharp Grossmont Hospital’s Cardiac and Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program.

Michael’s care team also encouraged him to do things that brought him happiness. This includes spending time with his dog, watching sports and playing guitar.

The program not only helped strengthen Michael’s heart but also restored his overall quality of life, he says. He encourages those who are currently in a cardiovascular rehabilitation program to stick with it. He now walks daily and can often be found walking his dog 1 to 2 miles in the evening.

“If you’re in a program like I was in, keep doing it,” Michael says. “Don’t back out. The more you put into it, the more you’ll get out of it. The first day, it was slow, and I was scared. But I kept going, and it improved my health.”

Learn more about Sharp Grossmont Hospital cardiovascular services; get the latest health and wellness news, trends and patient stories from Sharp Health News; and subscribe to our weekly newsletter by clicking the "Sign up" link below.


Alex Angeli


Alex Angeli is a clinical exercise physiologist with the cardiac rehabilitation program at Sharp Grossmont Hospital.

You might also like:

Get the best of Sharp Health News in your inbox

Our weekly email brings you the latest health tips, recipes and stories.