Listen to this in-depth presentation by Bonnie Sanderson, Ph.D., RN, Auburn School of Nursing, Auburn, AL, as she walks you through the education, support, and risk factor management skills provided by cardiac rehab programs.
Cardiac rehabilitation programs help participants resume a healthy lifestyle after a cardiac event, such as a heart attack, open heart surgery, or angioplasty and stenting. Often referred to as “cardiac rehab,” these programs include monitored exercise, education and counseling about cardiac risk factors, and psychosocial support. Studies have shown that participants who complete cardiac rehab programs have better odds of a longer life than those who don’t complete a program.
Who Is Eligible for Cardiac Rehabilitation?
Cardiac rehabilitation programs are appropriate for patients who have had a heart attack, angioplasty or stent, open heart surgery such as coronary artery bypass, valve replacement, or heart transplant, or for people with a diagnosis of angina or heart failure. Insurance coverage for these diagnoses may vary.
There is no minimum or maximum age limit for participation, and cardiac rehab is effective for both men and women. Cardiac rehabilitation professionals have been specially trained in how to individualize exercise programs, based on your age, level of fitness, other medical conditions, and previous experience with exercise equipment. In fact, cardiac rehabilitation staff design personalized education and counseling sessions according to a participant’s unique assessment and needs.
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C. Bruce Johnson, reporter and TV news anchor for WUSA-Washington, DC, describes his recovery from a massive heart attack.
What Are the Benefits of Cardiac Rehabilitation?
Recent studies have shown that people who attend cardiac rehabilitation are more likely to be alive and well 5 years after their heart event than those who do not.
Cardiac rehabilitation also improves:
- Exercise capacity and stamina
- Quality of life
- Sense of well-being
- Adherence to healthy lifestyle changes and medications
What to Expect in Cardiac Rehabilitation
Benefits from exercise are greatest when a person exercises 3 to 6 times per week, so most cardiac rehabilitation programs expect participants to attend 2 or 3 exercise sessions per week at the cardiac rehabilitation center and to supplement this with exercise at home, such as walking. Cardiac rehabilitation professionals develop an individualized exercise prescription for participants, based on information from the referring doctor. Sessions generally last around an hour and may also include education about nutrition, stress reduction, medications, smoking cessation, and exercise. After completing supervised monitored exercise for 24 to 36 sessions, participants are encouraged to continue with regular exercise, either at home or in their community. Many cardiac rehabilitation programs offer wellness or maintenance exercise programs for people with heart disease to continue to exercise in supervised group sessions. These programs are generally low cost and are paid for by the individual.
How Can You Find a Cardiac Rehabilitation Program?
To find a program in your area, visit the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation (AACVPR) Program Directory.
To learn more about cardiac rehab and help as you discuss cardiac rehab with your healthcare provider, please print by clicking on the image or email it and share this one-page resource sheet developed by AACVPR.
Please click on the image above to read and print (PDF format). To visit the AACVPR.org website where this important information is located, please click here. AACVPR.org also provides a Spanish version here.