​​​​​​Paul Helewa
After experiencing a shocking cardiac episode, Toronto Rehab’s Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation Program helped Paul Helewa, 33, ‘listen to his body’ and maintain a heart-first approach. (Photo: Paul Helewa)​

Just three months after experiencing a mild heart attack, Paul Helewa is back on the treadmill, running five kilometres at a time.

Heart disease and cardiac rehabilitation were not on Helewa's bucket list at the age of 33. Thanks to Toronto Rehab's Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation Program, he is well on his way to recovery.

On Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014, Toronto Rehab Foundation will host its 11th annual 'On Track to Cardiac Recovery walk' to support cardiac rehabilitation. You can walk, sponsor a participant, or volunteer. Click here to learn more.

Heart attack: a 'complete shock'

"Three years prior to my heart attack, I became dedicated to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. ​I lost 30 pounds, quit smoking, worked out five days per week (twice per week with a personal trainer) and chose a more balanced diet.  The day before my heart attack, I ran five kilometres at the gym," said Helewa. "Between my healthy life choices and having no family history of heart failure, my heart attack came as a complete shock."

With a young family and his own business, a heart attack brought its own set of challenges.  Not only did Helewa need to take time off work, but he was unable to drive, felt anxious about exercising and battled with the emotional toll of a cardiac episode.

"You start to question what it means for your life and you realize you are not as invincible as you once thought," said Helewa. "My biggest hurdle has been learning to trust my heart again and listening to my body."

Regaining confidence key to recovery

Helewa enrolled in the Cardiac Rehab program at Toronto Rehab's Rumsey Centre at the end of October 2013, where he has regained his confidence.

Already being committed to a healthy lifestyle, guidance from his Cardiac Rehab Team furthered his knowledge on diet, exercise and lifestyle strategies to improve heart health. 

Helewa is learning to lower his stress levels, refine his diet and exercise to maintain a heart-first approach.  He now has the self-assurance to push himself and move past his heart attack.

Helewa continues to thrive in the Cardiac Rehab program, where he will attend classes once per week until June.  With his rehab team supporting him every step of the way, Helewa is determined to get back to his life with a renewed sense of purpose.

"I feel so fortunate to be at the Rumsey Centre, in a safe and comfortable environment," said Helewa. "Toronto Rehab and its staff provide me, and so many others, with hope and the confidence to move beyond our cardiac events." 

To register for this year's 'On Track to Cardiac Recovery walk' on Feb.22, 2014, click here​

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