Stethoscope on the Cardiogram

Cardiac Rehabilitation

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Cardiac rehabilitation, also called cardiac rehab, is a customized outpatient program of exercise and education. The program is designed to help the person improve his/her health and recover from a heart attack, other forms of heart disease or surgery to treat heart disease.

Cardiac rehabilitation often involves exercise training, emotional support and education about lifestyle changes to reduce patient's heart disease risk, such as eating a heart-healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight and quitting smoking.

The goals of cardiac rehabilitation include establishing a plan to regain strength, prevent patient's condition from worsening, reduce the risk of future heart problems, and improve health and quality of life.

Why it's done

Cardiac rehabilitation is an option for people with many forms of heart disease. In particular, The patient might benefit from cardiac rehabilitation if the medical history includes:

  • Heart attack

  • Coronary artery disease

  • Heart failure

  • Peripheral artery disease

  • Chest pain (angina)

  • Cardiomyopathy

  • Certain congenital heart diseases

  • Coronary artery bypass surgery

  • Angioplasty and stents

  • Heart or lung transplant

  • Heart valve repair or replacement

  • Pulmonary hypertension

Cardiac rehabilitation includes:

  • Medical evaluation. The health care team will generally perform an initial evaluation to check patient's physical abilities, medical limitations and other conditions which may have. Ongoing evaluations can help the team keep track of progress over time.

  • Physical activity. Cardiac rehabilitation can improve cardiovascular fitness through physical activity. The health care team will likely suggest low impact activities that have a lower risk of injury, such as walking, cycling, rowing and jogging. The program might include yoga, which has been shown in some studies to be beneficial for cardiac health.

    The patient usually exercise at least three times a week. The health care team will likely teach proper exercise techniques, such as warming up and cooling down. The patient might also do muscle-strengthening exercises, such as lifting weights or other resistance training exercises, two or three times a week to increase muscular fitness.

  • Lifestyle education. This involves support and education on making healthy lifestyle changes, such as eating a heart-healthy diet, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight and quitting smoking.

    It can include guidance about managing conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol and obesity. The patient likely have opportunities to ask questions about such issues as sexual activity and also need to continue taking medications prescribed by doctor.

  • Support. Adjusting to a serious health problem often takes time. The patient might feel depressed or anxious, lose touch with social support system, or have to stop working for several weeks.

    If the patient gets depressed, don't ignore it. Depression can make cardiac rehab program more difficult, and it can affect the relationships and other areas of life and health.

    Counseling can help learn healthy ways to cope with depression and other feelings. The doctor might also suggest to take an antidepressant or other medication. Vocational or occupational therapy can teach skills help to return to work.