Health & Medicine

Cardiac rehab helps patients cope with heart disease

For many people, preventing heart disease or recovering from a cardiac event can be overwhelming. Cardiac rehabilitation services can help individuals make positive lifestyle changes in a safe and supervised environment.

Cardiac rehab is an individualized program of medically supervised exercise and education designed to improve heart health and overall quality of life. The program assists physicians and patients in managing heart disease.

Each patient meets with a staff member during the first session for orientation. An exercise program is developed based on the information gathered during this session. Whether a patient is trying to prevent heart disease, manage heart failure or recover from a heart attack, cardiac surgery, angioplasty or angina, an individualized treatment plan will be developed to help the patient reach his or her goals and to return to doing the things they value most. As patients become stronger and healthier, the exercise is adapted.

In addition to the physical rehab, patients are encouraged to participate in different classes to help reduce other risk factors. Classes are offered on topics such as stress reduction, medication and nutrition. The classes are designed to help reduce risk factors that might contribute to someone having another cardiac event in the future.

The success of the program is achieved through a team of physicians, registered nurses, exercise physiologists and dietitians working together to help the patient build strength, endurance, emotional well-being and self-confidence. Studies indicate those who participate in cardiac rehab have a better survival rate and a lower rate of being re-admitted to the hospital for cardiac-related events.

Exercise sessions occur three times each week and consist of 30 to 40 minutes of aerobic exercise combined with stretching and resistance training. During exercise, the patient is connected to a heart monitor that records heart rate and rhythms. Blood pressure also will be tracked. The program typically lasts 8 to 12 weeks depending on the patient's rate of progress.

Education sessions are offered at convenient times each month. The classes are aimed at helping one learn how to live a healthier lifestyle by making wiser food choices, coping with stress, managing diabetes, quitting smoking and taking other heart-healthy measures.

Cardiac rehab requires a physician referral and is typically covered by most insurance companies, including Medicare, based on diagnosis and date of event. Talk to your doctor to see if cardiac rehab is the right program for you.