Recovery from a heart attack or heart surgery only just begins when you leave the hospital. It’s important to take steps to improve your heart health to avoid another heart attack or cardiac event. Your physician may recommend cardiac rehabilitation, also known as cardiac rehab, to improve your heart health. Outpatient cardiac rehabilitation is an important part of recovery after a heart attack or heart surgery and involves education and medically monitored exercise.
What is Cardiac Rehabilitation?
Cardiac rehabilitation is a monitored outpatient exercise and education program customized to an individual after a heart attack, heart failure or surgery to treat heart disease. The program involves education, medically supervised exercise, and counseling to help reduce stress.
The goal of cardiac rehab to help individuals regain their strength, improve their health and help them recover.
Is Cardiac Rehabilitation Right for Me?
Your physician and nurses will talk to you about your activities after your heart attack or surgery - when you can go back to work, drive and have sex and what to do if you have chest discomfort. Your physician may recommend a cardiac rehabilitation program.
Cardiac rehabilitation is for any individual who has experienced a heart attack or any other cardiac event.
How to Prepare
The cardiac rehabilitation process begins while you are in the hospital where the individual and family members partner with our healthcare team to learn the lifestyle and habits that can impact an individual's heart health. After the initial education and discharge, you will work with your physician to develop a treatment plan and individualized goals for cardiac rehabilitation. Cardiac rehab costs are often covered by both insurance and Medicare so it may be important to check with your insurance to determine what is covered.
What to Expect
During Cardiac Rehabilitation
During a cardiac rehabilitation program, you’ll learn the importance of aerobic exercise, proper diet and controlling your stress.
Many cardiac rehabilitation programs have three phases.
- Phase I: Education while you’re in the hospital, including a class for family members.
- Phase II: This phase usually begins about four to six weeks after a heart attack or major surgery and includes monitored exercise, education about a heart-healthy diet, managing your heart disease risk factors and counseling. Requires physician referral and often is covered by health insurance.
- Phase III: Helps you maintain your new fitness level and includes medical-supervised exercise. If you’ve never had a heart problem, but are at high risk because of your lifestyle or family history, you can participate in phase III to help prevent heart problems from developing.
Throughout these three phases, cardiac rehab includes:
- Medical evaluation: Your health care team will closely monitor and evaluate your physical health, limitations, and other conditions you may have. Ongoing health evaluations will help your health care team keep track of your progress.
- Physical activity: Aerobic exercise strengthens your heart and helps it pump more effectively. For heart health, 20 to 30 minutes of exercise at least three times a week is recommended. Your cardiac rehabilitation staff will work with you to develop an exercise program tailored to your needs. You’re closely monitored while you exercise on a treadmill, stationary bicycle, rowing machine and other equipment during the program.
- Lifestyle education: A registered dietitian will show you how to make heart-healthy food choices at home, in the grocery store and in restaurants.
- Emotional support: Cardiac rehabilitation staff members provide a stress management seminar to help you learn techniques to reduce stress, which is a factor in many illnesses.
After Cardiac Rehabilitation
After you've completed a cardiac rehab program, it is important to maintain a healthy diet and an exercise routine. Maintaining your diet and other lifestyle changes will help you maintain your heart health and prevent future cardiac events. Cardiac rehabilitation's overall goal is to improve your quality of life.
When Are Sessions Offered?
Cardiac rehabilitation sessions are offered on normal business days in the outpatient cardiac rehab unit. Typically, cardiac rehab sessions run about an hour in length and are recommended for patients three times a week to help strengthen your heart. The average cardiac rehabilitation program length ranges from 4-6 weeks for most patients.