What is Cardiac Rehabilitation?

Cardiac rehabilitation is a medically supervised exercise program designed to help heart patients recover quickly from surgery and/or limiting conditions, and improve their overall physical, mental and social functioning. The goal is to stabilize, slow, or even reverse the progression of cardiovascular disease, thereby reducing the risk of heart disease, another cardiac event, or untimely death.

What does Cardiac Rehab involve?

Cardiac rehab focuses on a variety of areas that affect a person’s day-to-day life and functioning. These areas and activities include:

  • Counseling to help the patient better understand and manage the disease process
  • Starting / maintaining an exercise program
  • Nutrition and diet counseling
  • Helping the patient to modify and manage risk factors (including high blood pressure, smoking, high cholesterol, physical inactivity, obesity and diabetes)
  • Vocational guidance to help the patient to return to work
  • Providing information about physical limitations
  • Lending emotional support
  • Counseling on appropriate use of prescribed medicine

Why is Cardiac Rehab helpful?

The long term success of any secondary prevention program is directly related to patient compliance and commitment. Evidence suggests that improving the plasma lipid and lipoprotein profile with diet, exercise, and drug therapy benefits patients. Additionally, current smokers who quit smoking will significantly reduce their risks of another heart attack, sudden death, stroke and reduced quality of life, as compared with those who continue to smoke.

An exercise program is normally included, but rehabilitation is tailored to each patient’s individual needs. Exercise may be very structured, including ECG monitoring, or less structured, with infrequent monitoring. It depends upon a patient’s specific heart problem and other health problems.

When supervised by a physician, cardiac rehabilitation is helpful to patients with congestive heart failure, angina pectoris (chest pain due to clogged heart arteries), a recent heart attack, coronary artery bypass graft surgery of PTCA (balloon angioplasty), who’ve had a pacemaker implanted, are heart transplant candidates or recipients, have stable chronic heart failure, peripheral arterial disease with claudication, or other forms of cardiovascular disease. It can also be helpful for patients with congenital cardiovascular disease, who may or may not have had surgery.

The combination of all the elements of cardiac rehabilitation can greatly improve a patient’s functional capacity and quality of life, while reducing risk factors and increasing a sense of well-being and optimism about the future.