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Heart Failure and Cardiac Rehabilitation

If you have a heart condition, have had heart surgery or a heart attack, your doctor may encourage you to participate in the hospital's cardiac rehabilitation program. The program generally includes a tailored exercise plan, education, and help with changing your risk factors (such as quitting smoking and changing your diet). Cardiac rehab programs also offer emotional support. The program allows you to meet others like yourself who can help you stay on track to maintain a healthier heart.

What Types of Exercises Are Included in Cardiac Rehab?

Cycling on a stationary bike, using a treadmill, low-impact aerobics, and swimming are examples of exercises that may be included in your cardiac rehab program.

Who Benefits From Cardiac Rehab?

Cardiac rehab may benefit you if you have:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Had a recent cardiac event, such as a heart attack
  • Heart failure
  • Had a cardiac procedure, such as angioplasty or heart surgery
  • An arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythm) or an implantable device (for example, a pacemaker or defibrillator)

How Will I Benefit From Cardiac Rehab?

Cardiac rehab offers many benefits. It can improve your ability to carry out activities of daily living, reduce your heart disease risk factors, improve your quality of life, improve your outlook and emotional stability, and increase your knowledge of your disease and how to manage it.

How Do You Pick a Cardiac Rehab Program?

The best cardiac rehab programs are multidisciplinary, with doctors, nurses, exercise physiologists, psychologists, and dietitians either on the premises or in direct contact with the program staff. A good program will study each person's needs and design a program just for him or her.

Consider the following when choosing a rehab program:

  • Do you need a doctor's referral to enter the program? Because cardiac rehab is a form of medical treatment, a doctor's referral should be required.
  • Will your doctor receive regular reports? The program should report your progress to the referring doctor.
  • Are educational and counseling services available for you and your family? Heart disease affects the whole family. Education and counseling can be of great support to all involved.
  • Will an individualized treatment plan be developed for you? The staff should identify your risks and tailor a program to your needs.
  • Is doctor supervision available during your exercise session? A doctor should be in the immediate area or have direct contact with staff. Find out who supervises your exercise sessions.
  • Are you informed of the risks and benefits of the program?
  • Is the staff specially trained and/or certified in the field of cardiac rehabilitation? Who will be setting up your program? Are they certified in their specialty area? Are all staff members currently certified in CPR (everyone in the program should be certified in basic cardiac life support)? At least one person with advanced cardiac life support certification should be present at each session.
  • Are emergency procedures available for your review? The program should have an emergency policy that can be discussed with you. Are emergency equipment and supplies readily available?
  • Are the fees and insurance coverage discussed with you?
  • Is the clinic close to your home so that it's convenient?
  • Are rehab sessions held at times that are convenient?

Take these questions with you when looking at a cardiac rehabilitation program.

For a complete listing of cardiac rehabilitation programs, visit the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program Directory.

 

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by James Beckerman, MD, FACC on July 11, 2014

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