BIDDEFORD — George Semo, a retired Noble High School English teacher of 35 years, is one of the many success stories at Southern Maine Health Care, who shared his story during Cardiac Rehabilitation Week, Feb. 9-15, to draw attention to the role of cardiac rehabilitation in reducing the potentially devastating effects of heart disease.

Semo says he was generally healthy, he watched what he ate and he walked at least once a day with his wife for exercise. Then, in March of 2013, he had a heart attack.

In recovery, Semo was instructed by his doctors that he could not do any physical activity for several months.

Finally in June, his doctors agreed that he was ready to start rehab, and he found the team at the SMHC Cardiac Rehab Gym in Biddeford.

“I highly recommend the program, because once you undergo a heart event you need to get back to living your life, but you are consumed by fear that it will happen again,” said Semo. “On your own, you don’t know what you can and cannot do, but in the cardiac rehab program, there are professionals to show you as well as teach you through educational classes that both I and my wife could attend.”

The cardiac rehabilitation program is held at SMHC’s Medical Center in Sanford and at the Cardiopulmonary Wellness Center at SMHC’s Medical Center in Biddeford. Most insurances cover the cost of the program, and there is financial assistance for those who qualify.

Semo’s story has a happy ending, but many do not. About 600,000 people die of heart disease in the U.S. every year. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. Every year, approximately 715,000 Americans have a heart attack. Taking action promptly when some is having a heart attack is essential. If you think you or another person might be having a heart attack, call 9-1-1 immediately.