What are the Benefits of Cardiac Rehabilitation, and What Does it Involve?

cardiac rehab

Cardiac rehab, or cardiac rehabilitation, is a personalized outpatient exercise and education program. The program is about supporting you in improving your health and recovering from a heart attack, other heart-related events, or heart surgery.

Although there are some cases of inpatient cardiac rehab, most CR is for outpatient.

Cardiac rehab often involves physical training, emotional support, and education about lifestyle changes to reduce the risk of heart disease, such as eating a heart-healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, and quitting smoking.

The objective of cardiac rehab includes establishing a plan to help you regain strength, keep your condition from getting worse, reduce your risk of future heart problems, and improve your health and quality of life.

Research has found that cardiac rehab programs can lower the risk of death from heart disease and lower the chance of future heart issues. The American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology recommend cardiac rehabilitation programs.

An optimal cardiac rehabilitation experience consists of thirty-six one-hour sessions, which include supervised team-based exercise training, education and skill development for heart-healthy living, and counseling on stress and other psychosocial factors.

Who Benefits from Cardiac Rehabilitation

Cardiac rehabilitation is a suitable option for people with many forms of heart disease.

In particular, you may benefit from CR if your medical history includes heart attack, heart failure, lung or heart transplantation, or heart valve repair or replacement.

Supposing your medical records include:

  • coronary or peripheral artery disease
  • chest pain (angina)
  • cardiomyopathy
  • Specific congenital heart diseases
  • coronary artery bypass surgery
  • angioplasty and stents
  • pulmonary hypertension

In that case, you may also benefit from cardiac rehab.

Cardiac Rehabilitation Risks

CR is not appropriate for everybody who has had a heart issue. Your health care provider will evaluate your health, including checking your medical history, conducting a physical exam, performing tests, and ensuring you are ready to begin a cardiac rehabilitation program.

It is rare when people suffer injuries, such as muscle strains or sprains while exercising as part of cardiac rehabilitation. Your health care provider will follow you closely as you exercise to reduce the risk and teach you how to avoid injury when you exercise on your own. However, there is also a small risk of cardiovascular complications.

Rehab 2

Getting Ready

If you have had heart surgery, a heart attack, or other heart condition, we suggest asking your physician about joining a cardiac rehabilitation program. Insurance and Medicare often cover the costs of cardiac rehab in the United States. Therefore, you should talk to your insurance company to see if they will include your cardiac rehabilitation.

Your healthcare giver will work with you to set your cardiac rehab program goals and design a program that meets your needs. In some cases, a case manager will follow your care.

Cardiac rehab may begin while you are still in the hospital or, more likely, as an outpatient. For some people, a home-based program may work, especially at a particular time, such as a pandemic.

Expectations During Cardiac Rehabilitation

The early stages of most cardiac rehabilitation programs usually last about three months, but some people will continue the program longer. In special situations, some people may do an intensive program of several hours a day that may last one or two weeks.

During cardiac rehab, you will likely work with a team of healthcare professionals, including cardiologists, nurse educators, nutrition specialists, exercise specialists, mental health specialists, and physical and occupational therapists.

What Cardiac Rehabilitation Involves

Your healthcare giver will usually perform an initial evaluation to check your physical abilities, medical limitations, and other conditions you may have. Ongoing evaluations can help your team track your progress over time.

During your evaluation, your healthcare provider may discuss your risk factors for cardiac complications, particularly during exercise. This evaluation can help your team tailor a cardiac rehabilitation program to your needs, making sure it is safe and effective for you.

Cardiac rehab can improve your cardiovascular condition through physical activity. Your healthcare team will likely suggest low-impact exercises with a lower risk of injuries, such as walking, biking, rowing, and jogging. In addition, your program might include yoga, which according to studies, is beneficial for heart health.

Generally, you will exercise at least three times a week. Your healthcare team will likely teach you correct exercise techniques, such as warming up and cooling down.

You can also do muscle-strengthening exercises, such as weight lifting or other resistance training exercises twice a week to improve your muscle condition.

CR programs use various materials for resistance and endurance training of patients, for example, treadmills, steppers, weights, rowers, elliptical machines, exercise bikes, and dumbbells, among others. Additionally, swimming pools can be beneficial for training very debilitated patients.

The healthcare team uses a baseline symptom-limited stress test to stratify a patient’s risk of cardiac events before physical training. They also develop an exercise prescription based on the result of the exercise test and include the type, intensity, time, duration, and frequency of exercise.

Do not be concerned if you have never exercised in the past. Your healthcare provider can ensure the program progresses comfortably and is safe for you.

Cardiac Rehabilitation also involves support and education on healthy lifestyle changes, such as following a heart-healthy diet, regular exercising, maintaining a healthy weight, and quitting smoking.

Lifestyle education may include managing conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, and obesity. In addition, you will likely have the opportunity to ask questions about such issues as sexual activity.

Sexual dysfunction is frequent in patients with cardiovascular disease. This situation is due to the side effects of some medications, the coexistence of other risk factors, such as diabetes, smoking, or hypertension, and psychological factors, such as depression, anxiety, and fear of triggering a heart attack during intercourse.

Sexual activity is a vital component of quality of life. Therefore, providing sexual counseling to patients during cardiac rehab sessions is essential.

You will also need to continue taking medications prescribed by your physician.

SUPPORT

Adjusting to a severe health issue often takes time. For example, you may feel depressed or anxious, lose touch with your social support system, or have to stop working for several weeks.

If you become depressed, do not ignore it. Depression can complicate your cardiac rehab program and disrupt your relations and other aspects of your life and health.

Counseling may be helpful for you to learn healthy ways to deal with depression and other feelings. Your physician may also suggest that you take an antidepressant or other medication. In addition, vocational or occupational therapy can teach you skills to help you return to work.

Although it can be challenging to start a cardiac rehabilitation program when you are not feeling well, you may benefit in the long run. CR may coach you through fright and distress as you return to an active lifestyle with more drive and energy to do the things you enjoy.

Cardiac rehab can help you rebuild your life, physically and emotionally. As you get stronger and learn to manage your condition, you will likely return to your routine and your new eating and exercise routines.

Your chances of having a successful cardiac rehabilitation program depend mainly on you. Therefore, the more dedicated you are to following your program’s recommendations, the better you will do.

During cardiac rehab, you will likely work with a team of healthcare professionals, including cardiologists, nurse educators, nutrition specialists, exercise specialists, mental health specialists, and physical and occupational therapists.

rehab
Rehab old

Following Cardiac Rehabilitation

After concluding your program, you will usually need to keep the diet, exercise, and other healthy lifestyle routines you learned for the rest of your life to maintain the benefits of heart health. The goal is that by the end of the program, you will have the tools you need to exercise on your own and maintain a healthier lifestyle.

Cardiac Rehabilitation Benefits

To get the most benefits from CR, you must maintain the routines and perform the techniques you acquired in the CR program for the rest of your life.

In the long run, sticking with your cardiac rehabilitation can benefit you in many ways in your life, for example: improving your strength and adopting heart-healthy behaviors, such as regular exercise and a heart-healthy diet.

CR also helps to eliminate bad habits, such as smoking; controlling your weight, finding ways to manage stress, learning to deal with heart disease, and decreasing your risk of coronary artery disease and other heart-related conditions.

One of the most valued benefits of cardiac rehabilitation is usually improving your overall quality of life. If you adhere to your cardiac rehab program, you may eventually feel better than before a heart condition or heart surgery.

Participation in a cardiac rehabilitation program can drastically reduce the risk of all-cause and cardiac death and reduce hospital readmissions. Participation also improves functional status, quality of life, and mood.

Cardiac rehabilitation programs have become an integral piece of the standard of care in contemporary cardiology. In most current guidelines from cardiovascular societies worldwide, cardiac rehab is a class one recommendation.

Modern Heart and Vascular logo

CARDIOVASCULAR CENTERS IN HOUSTON, TEXAS

Modern Heart and Vascular, a preventive cardiology medical practice, has several offices around Houston. We have locations in Humble, Cleveland, The Woodlands, Katy, and Livingston.

We are Modern Heart and Vascular Institute, a diagnostic and preventative medicine cardiology practice.

Every heart has a story… What’s yours?

Book an Appointment Today

At the Modern Heart and Vascular Institute, we offer state-of-the-art cardiovascular care with innovative diagnostic tools and compassionate patient care. Our priority at Modern Heart and Vascular Institute is prevention. We help patients lead healthier lives by avoiding unnecessary procedures and surgeries.

Contact us online to learn more and book an appointment. If you’d like to learn more about our practice, read our providers’ bios.

This article does not provide medical advice. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you need cardiovascular care, please call us at 832-644-8930.