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Cardiac rehabilitation (rehab) is a program for people who have a heart problem. It teaches you how to be more active and have a heart-healthy lifestyle. This can lead to a stronger heart and better health. Cardiac rehab can help you feel better and reduce your risk of future heart problems.
The program includes exercise, education, and emotional support. You work with a team of health professionals. The team designs a program just for you, based on your health and goals. Then they give you support to help you succeed.
You will learn how to reduce your risk for heart problems, how to manage stress, and how to eat a heart-healthy diet. By the end of the program, you will be ready to maintain a healthy lifestyle on your own. Cardiac rehab can also help you return to work safely and in a timely manner.
Your doctor may suggest cardiac rehab if you have a certain heart problem, such as a heart attack, stable angina, heart failure, or heart valve disease. Rehab is also done after certain heart procedures or surgeries. Examples include a coronary angioplasty, coronary bypass, heart transplant, or a heart valve repair or replacement.
Cardiac rehab can help you have better overall health and a better quality of life. It can help reduce your risk of future heart problems, stay out of the hospital, and manage your symptoms. Rehab can also help you recover from a procedure or surgery.
Health Tools help you make wise health decisions or take action to improve your health.
In cardiac rehab, you can learn how to:
Cardiac rehab programs are designed specifically for you and your medical needs.
Exercise is a big part of cardiac rehab. So before you get started, you may have a full checkup. This will help your team design an exercise program that is safe for you.
Your doctor will give you an exercise prescription. It will give you and your cardiac rehab team guidelines for the frequency, duration, and intensity of your exercise. The prescription will be based on your medical condition and your fitness level.
Your rehab team will keep a close watch on how exercise affects your heart. You will learn how to check your own heart rate when you exercise. By the end of rehab, you will be ready to continue an exercise program on your own.
Cardiac rehab may include hospital (inpatient) programs and outpatient programs. Outpatient programs include those in rehab facilities and those that take place in your home.
Cardiac rehab programs usually include:
A hospital (inpatient) program takes place in the hospital after you have had a heart attack, heart surgery, or other heart problem. This program may include:
The outpatient program is supervised and done in a rehab clinic or facility. You will likely take part in a exercise program. You will receive information and tools to have a heart-healthy lifestyle. You may also get counseling to help you take care of your emotional health.
Your cardiac rehab might include an exercise program that you do at home.
This program helps you keep the healthy behaviors and habits that you learned in your outpatient rehab program. It can be done at a facility or in your home.
Your doctor may suggest cardiac rehab if you:
Not everyone is a good candidate for the exercise part of cardiac rehab. You may have other medical concerns that prevent your doctor from recommending cardiac rehab. But almost everyone with heart disease or risk factors for heart disease would benefit from the counseling and health education that cardiac rehab provides.
Before you start a cardiac rehabilitation (rehab) program, your doctor will check your heart health to see what types of exercises you can safely do. Tests may include the following:
This test measures the electrical signals that control the rhythm of your heartbeat. A resting ECG will sometimes show if more testing is needed before you start your exercise program.
This test records the electrical activity of the heart. It is done during exercise to evaluate how your heart responds to exercise. Your doctor can use the test results to find a safe amount of exercise for you. This test may also be called a stress or treadmill test.
An echo is a type of ultrasound. It uses high-pitched sound waves to make an image of your heart. The sound waves are sent through a device called a transducer. The sound waves are reflected off the various structures of the heart. This test shows how well your heart is pumping blood and how well your heart valves are working. Sometimes it is combined with an exercise stress test.
This test estimates the amount of blood reaching the heart muscle during rest and exercise. It is typically done to find out the cause of unexplained chest pain or to find out the location and amount of injured heart muscle after a heart attack.
This test monitors the electrical activity of your heart while you go about your daily activities. Many heart problems occur only during certain activities, such as exercise, eating, sex, emotional stress, bowel movements, or even sleeping. A continuous recording is much more likely to find any abnormal heartbeats that occur during these activities.
You may also have other tests during cardiac rehab. These tests help your doctor see how you are doing. The tests may include checking your blood pressure and weight. You may also have your blood sugar and cholesterol checked.
Cardiac rehabilitation exercise programs are a safe way for people with heart problems to exercise.
Your rehab team will monitor your activity closely. Health professionals will be on hand to deal with any problems you may have. Your rehab team will tailor all of your exercises specifically for you, based on your medical condition and overall health. Cardiac rehab begins slowly at a comfortable pace and may be as gentle as walking on a treadmill.
If you are worried or afraid to be active again, talk to your doctor. Exercise and activity can greatly improve the quality of your life.
Cardiac rehab carries a small risk of complications.
If you have a health problem that makes exercise unsafe, your rehab will not include an exercise program. These health problems include:
Even if you can't exercise or be active, you will benefit from other parts of a cardiac rehab program. For example, you can get help with quitting smoking and reducing stress. And you can get advice on how to eat a heart-healthy diet. This type of education can lower the risk of heart-related death.
Tell your doctor and others on your rehab team about all of the medicines you are taking, especially if they cause any side effects during exercise. Medicines may also affect your ability to participate in cardiac rehab. Some prescribed medicines can change your heart rate, blood pressure, and overall ability to exercise.
When you exercise, be sure that you are aware of signs and symptoms that mean you should stop exercising and contact your doctor.
Knowing how your body is responding to exercise and what physical conditions are normal for your rehab is important. Your rehab team will show you how to keep track of how you feel, what your heart rate is, and what your blood pressure is. This can help you be aware of problems while you exercise. It can also tell you how your heart is improving.
If you have any other physical or medical concerns such as the flu, a backache, or knee pain, it is best that you put off exercising until the problem passes. You should seek medical advice if you have any questions or concerns.
Your rehab team will tell you which symptoms mean you should call for help.
Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:
Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:
Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if you have any problems.
Cardiac rehab may help you to:
You may also find that cardiac rehab helps you to:
Another benefit is attending a program with others who have had a similar experience. You will know that you are not alone. You and the others in the program can support and encourage each other. This can help you get back your emotional and mental well-being.
You also learn how to live a heart-healthy life. You'll learn how to:
Current as of:
June 25, 2023
Author: Healthwise StaffClinical Review Board: All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.
Current as of: June 25, 2023
Clinical Review Board:
All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2023 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
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