What Is Cardiac Rehab?
What is cardiac rehab and who can benefit from it? Cardiac rehab is the first step in recovery for patients who have had a heart attack or heart surgery. Even individuals who are not heart attack survivors can benefit from a cardiac rehab program, especially if they have a history of heart disease or other conditions that pose a risk to heart health. A cardiac rehab regimen can minimize or even eliminate risk factors that can lead to more serious health issues further down the road, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes. A successful cardiac rehab program requires a lifelong commitment from the patient to adapt and adhere to lifestyle changes in diet, to incorporate physical activity into their daily routine and to learn stress management techniques to improve emotional health.
Patients work closely with their cardiac rehab team. This team consists of doctors, specialists, dietitians, physical therapists and psychologists who monitor and track the patient's progress and address any questions and concerns the patient may have. The cardiac rehab team makes an overall health assessment based on the patient's medical history. Patients also undergo a physical examination and may be required to get an electrocardiogram and blood sugar and/or cholesterol test. This helps the team design a cardiac rehab program specifically tailored to the patient's needs.
Cardiac rehab has lifelong benefits. These include:
- Reduction of overall risk of future heart problems and dying from a heart attack
- Decrease in pain and the need for heart or chest medication
- Decrease chances of future hospital or emergency room visits for heart problems
- Stress reduction
Improved quality of life and emotional health
There are few risks associated with cardiac rehab. Patients with heart problems are advised to begin physical activity in a rehab setting under the supervision of the rehab team. Possible minor risks are muscle injury or heart rhythm problems that could lead to death or another heart attack. The length of time required for cardiac rehab varies from patient to patient and depends on the patient's overall physical condition.