Northwestern's Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute Cardiac Rehabilitation program paved the wayCHICAGO, April 1, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Amar Vakil seemed to have it all: A rapidly growing management consulting business and a loving and supportive family. Vakil, 49, is a first-generation immigrant from India and was determined to take full advantage of the American Dream. He became so motivated and obsessed with taking his business to the next level that it began to take a toll on his health. He was traveling five days a week, sleep was a low priority, and as a young businessman, he thought he was invincible. In March of 2010, Vakil and his family decided to take a trip down to Charleston, S.C. Vakil was already suffering from exhaustion, but he desperately wanted to take this trip to spend some quality time together as a family. On the drive down to Charleston, his exhaustion quickly turned to severe chest pain and discomfort in his neck and entire body. At the time he didn't know it, but Vakil suffered his first heart attack. Only weeks later, everything came crashing down when he suffered another heart attack. "This was the ultimate wake-up call," said Vakil. "I was lucky to be alive and had an opportunity to make things right. Others don't always get that opportunity." After several weeks of recovery, Vakil was referred to Northwestern's Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute Cardiac Rehabilitation program, a supervised program of exercise and education for cardiovascular patients. Exercise is done under the direct guidance of a doctor, specialized nurses and exercise physiologists. "Amar was committed to doing the work and putting the time in to make sure he decreased his risk factors for any future cardiac events," said Rita Szymanski, BSN, RN, clinical coordinator at Northwestern's Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute Cardiac Rehabilitation program. "He was on a mission." Cardiac rehab is an intervention for individuals who have experienced a heart attack, with research indicating the mortality rate is 34 percent lower for people who go through the program. Participation in the cardiac rehab program gives patients the confidence they need to recover and move forward with their lives.