The South Texas Health System Intensive Cardiac Rehabilitation program is the only one of its kind in South Texas

Each year, approximately 800,000 Americans suffer a heart attack, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 1 in 4 of those people have already had a previous heart event. It’s for that reason physicians highly encourage cardiac rehabilitation as an integral part of the recovery process for those suffer a heart attack or have a heart condition. Not only can it can help one build heart-healthy habits that can help prevent another, perhaps more serious, heart attack.

For the last year, Rio Grande Valley residents with heart issues have been able to turn to South Texas Health System Heart, the Valley’s only freestanding heart hospital with its own dedicated cardiac emergency room, for comprehensive cardiac rehabilitation that goes beyond the care provided by traditional programs.

On Thursday, June 17, South Texas Health System Heart held a small, socially distanced event to commemorate the first anniversary of its intensive cardiac rehabilitation program, which first opened its doors in June 2020.

Developed in partnership with Pritikin Intensive Cardiac Rehab , South Texas Health System Intensive Cardiac Rehabilitation is the only comprehensive lifestyle change program in South Texas.

“There’s no denying that a heart attack represents a life-changing event. Navigating the road to recovery, even if you follow your doctor’s orders to the letter, can be overwhelming. So we set out to create a program that helps people avoid future heart problems,” says Brenda Ivory, Chief Executive Officer, South Texas Health System Heart.

“Most traditional cardiac rehabilitation programs consist of 36 hours of exercise sessions, which help strengthen a person’s heart and body after a heart attack. Our intensive cardiac rehabilitation programs goes beyond that, offering two times the number of sessions versus those traditional programs while focusing on more than just exercise.”

Approved by Medicare and many commercial insurers, the South Texas Health System Intensive Cardiac Rehabilitation program follows Pritikin’s comprehensive curriculum and focuses on three key pillars: regular exercise, a heart-healthy eating plan and a healthy mind-set. 

In addition to taking part in 36 hours of supervised medically appropriate exercise, patients also take part in an additional 36 hours of educational sessions that focus on lifestyle change, including live cooking demonstrations with a registered dietitian, individualized nutrition consultations, immersive workshops and educational videos that address key lifestyle concepts.

“Doctors and health experts are always talking about the importance of getting plenty of exercise and eating healthy eating, that’s certainly essential. But there are other things you have to do to decrease your chance of future heart problems, as well as other health issues,” says Dr. Ofsman Quintana, MD, Medical Director, South Texas Health System Intensive Cardiac Rehabilitation, South Texas Health System Heart.

“This comprehensive program helps educate patients on those lifestyle changes that they must make to lead a healthier lifestyle, including reducing stress and anxiety, improving communication skills, effective goal-setting and improving your overall mood.”

Nearly 50 patients are currently enrolled in the outpatient program, while another 22 have completed their 72 sessions.

For patients like Celia Juarez, who was diagnosed with congestive heart failure and cardiomyopathy last year, the program has not only changed her life forever, it has also changed her perspective.

“I enjoyed going through the program, and I love the staff. Not only are they very professional, but they are super friendly and always positive. They’re with you every step of the way, encouraging you and telling you, ‘You can do this,” says Celia Juarez, who saw her heart function rise from 25 percent to 45 percent after taking part in the program. “Now I do my best to eat healthy, exercise and just look at my life in the most positive way. That’s what they teach you… that all these behaviors are good for the mind and the heart.”

The South Texas Health System Intensive Cardiac Rehabilitation program is located at 500 E. Ridge Rd., Second Floor, McAllen, TX 78503. For more information, call 956-994-2000. Or click here.

About South Texas Health System

South Texas Health System is a multi-facility health care system serving patients throughout the Rio Grande Valley. The system includes four facility campuses with specialties in pediatrics, heart and vascular services, maternity and women’s health and trauma services. Treatment for behavioral health needs and addictive disorders is also provided through the system's South Texas Health System Behavioral Health campus location. South Texas Health System is affiliated with the South Texas Clinical Partners ACO, Prominence Health Plan, and Cornerstone Regional Hospital. The system operates an advanced Level II Trauma Center at South Texas Health System McAllen, the first and only pediatric ER at South Texas Health System Children’s, a specialized cardiac ER at South Texas Health System Heart, and six freestanding emergency rooms located in and around Weslaco, Mission, Edinburg, McAllen and Alamo. For more information on the system, please visit