The Habersham Medical Center (HMC) Cardiac Rehab program is celebrating February: National Heart Month and is celebrating 30 years of helping patients cope and recover from heart disease.

“When the program began in 1986, three patients were enrolled in the program initially, and now more than 125 new patients enroll into the program annually.  “Our program has really grown over the years,” says Dr. F. Stuart Sanders, Medical Director.  “Our patients range in age from their mid-30’s to late 80’s, and most are recovering from a major heart event, such as a heart attack or heart surgery.”

“Cardiac Rehab is much more than an exercise plan and is a comprehensive medical and lifestyle modification program that teaches heart patients about their disease, symptoms, and management, and helps individuals improve their coronary risk factors and ultimately, improve their quality of life,” says Dr. Sanders.   “Our team of nurses, an exercise physiologist and a nutritionist work with each patient offering individualized care and support.”

The HMC Cardiac Rehab program was one of the first programs in the United States to be certified by the American Association of Cardiovascular Pulmonary Rehabilitation (AACVPR), and Dr. Sanders served as President of the AACVPR Heart and Lung Foundation from 1999-2003.  The mission statement of the AACVPR is to reduce morbidity, mortality, and disability from cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases through education, prevention, rehabilitation, research, and aggressive disease management. Certified programs, like HMC’s Cardiac Rehab program, are reviewed regularly by a national board and found to meet the outlined essential requirements for care.

During National Cardiac Rehab Week, February 14-20, 2016, the Cardiac Rehab staff will be selling paper hearts to display “in memory of” or “in honor of” for $1 each.  All proceeds will go to the Constance Thieme Memorial Fund, which benefits the Cardiac Rehab department. Constance Thieme was the director of the HMC Cardiac Rehab program for more than 20 years and passed away in 2013. The hearts will be on display throughout the month of February and will celebrate this year’s theme, “Cardiac Rehabilitation: Changing Lives; One Heart at a Time.”

Also, the HMC Cardiac Rehab patients will be competing against hundreds of cardiac rehab patients in the 2016 World Heart Games of the American College of Sports Medicine in Charlotte, North Carolina, May 20-21.  Dr. Sanders is currently serving as chairman of the 2016 World Heart Games, and seventeen of the HMC Cardiac Rehab patients will be playing on the HMC Volleyball team with the goal of bringing home another Gold Medal.  They were Gold Medal Champions in 2003, 2006, 2010 and 2013.  And, there are other competitions the HMC cardiac and pulmonary rehab patients will be competing in including table tennis; bocce; golf putting; bowling; prediction walk; jogging; recumbent bike and rowing; swimming; a basketball shooting contest; game of knowledge; tennis; a softball throw; soccer shoot; a golf tournament; and new for 2016 are pickle ball; a bean bag toss/corn hole; and disc golf/Frisbee golf.

For more information about the HMC Cardiac Rehab program or to make a donation, call (706) 754-3113, ext. 2455 or email