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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – A team of health professionals from China is spending six weeks in Dallas studying the program for cardiac rehab at Baylor Health.

With a population of 1.3 billion, care for patients of heart procedures is a growing need in China. On August 15th, an article published by the Harvard School of Public Health found China’s cardiovascular problems are propelled by increases in high blood pressure and obesity; and that the country faces an epidemic of heart disease and stroke.

One concern, says Xi Chen, a physician from the visiting group, is the lack of cardiac rehab centers in the country to care for patients after they’ve checked out of the hospital.

“Increasing numbers of patients have cardiovascular disease. There is a lack of exercise and cardio rehab. They really need it,” Dr. Chen says.

Other than Dr. Chen, the group includes a cardiologist, a physical therapist and a nurse. They became aware of Baylor’s cardiac rehab program after hearing program manager Tim Bilbrey speak at a conference.

“I know it’s good. Baylor Hospital is totally different from hospital in China,” says Dr. Chen who works at a regional hospital in the city of Chengdu, located in southwest China.

Every day, the Chinese team shadows the exercise physiologists working in the cardiac rehab room at Baylor. They’re learning how to work with patients to tailor rehabilitation programs to the individual’s need.

“Exercise, monitoring vitals. Helping with their diet. Figuring out what brought the patient into the hospital and then creating a treatment plan to keep them healthy, longer,” said Bilbrey.

“I think the most interesting part is ‘return to work’. In traditional cardio rehab, they do not really return to work, they just do the same exercise for everybody. At Baylor they do different things according to different people,” said Dr. Chen.

For Carl Pipkin, that means time spent on the exercise equipment on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. The 75-year-old received a heart transplant eleven years ago.

“When you come to this program, they give you a plan. Question you and test you. They want to know your interests. They give you an exercise plan to follow each time that you come here,” said Pipkin. “It has helped with my stamina, I can tell.”

When their time is up in Dallas, Dr. Chen says the plan is to take Baylor’s model to private cardiac rehab centers that are newly built in the cities of Shanghai and Chengdu.

“We need to learn everything,” Dr. Chen says.

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Jennifer Lindgren