The Importance of Cardiac Rehabilitation

Not only will cardiac rehab increase your chances of survival, but it can also help you achieve a level of good health that may be even better than what it was before your illness.

The goals of cardiac rehabilitation are to help patients regain their strength, prevent the problem from worsening and to reduce the risk of future heart problems. What's more, people of all ages-even those older than 65-can benefit from a cardiac rehabilitation program.

A comprehensive cardiac rehab program is a lifelong endeavor that usually begins while patients are still in the hospital and continues in an outpatient setting until it's safe to switch to a home-based maintenance program and includes four components:

  • A medical evaluation to check for physical limitations and other health conditions to enable the medical team to tailor a cardiac rehab program to a patient's individual needs and address any risk factors that lead to coronary heart disease, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, overweight or obesity, diabetes, smoking, inactivity and depression.
  • A monitored exercise program to boost cardiovascular fitness through walking, cycling, rowing and other endurance activities; as well as strength training to increase muscle fitness.
  • Lifestyle education to provide guidance on diet and nutrition so heart patients can make healthier food choices aimed at reducing fat, sodium and cholesterol in their diet; tips on quitting smoking; and advice on resuming sexual activity.
  • Mental health support to help patients adjust to having a serious health problem and overcome feelings of depression or anxiousness, common following a heart attack.

Your Cardiac Rehab Team

Your cardiac rehabilitation team may include your family doctor, a heart specialist and a surgeon; nurses; exercises specialists; physical and occupational therapists; dietitians or nutritionists; and psychologists or other mental health specialists

The Benefits to You

According to several clinical trials, participating in a cardiac rehabilitation program can reduce your chance of dying early by 20 percent to 25 percent. It also lowers the risk of having a future heart attack by 28 percent; reduces the need for heart-related medication; and provides relief from depression, fear and anxiety.

If you've had a heart attack or heart surgery or you have another heart condition, ask your doctor about joining a cardiac rehabilitation program. Health insurance and Medicare often cover the costs incurred in cardiac rehabilitation.