Cardiac Rehabilitation - Phases of Cardiac Rehab
is a program designed specifically for you and your medical needs. It includes
exercise, lifestyle changes, education, and emotional support. It can help
improve your health and enable you to live a more active life after you have
heart attack or heart surgery or if you have a
long-term heart problem such as
heart failure. Cardiac rehab can also help you return
to work safely and in a timely manner.
You may start a cardiac
rehab program while you are still in the hospital after having treatment for a
heart attack or other heart problem, soon after leaving the hospital, or at any
other time to help prevent future heart problems, improve the quality of your
life, and make you healthier. Your doctor will give you an exercise
prescription that gives you and your cardiac rehab team guidelines for the
frequency, duration, and intensity of exercise. The prescription will be based
on your medical condition and your fitness level.
How fast you
recover depends on your age, your health, and whether you have other health
conditions that may slow your recovery. A younger person without other health
problems may improve more quickly than an older person who is in poor health.
Depending on your condition and how you respond to rehab, you may stay in a
particular phase or move back and forth among the various phases. There is no
set length of time that you must stay in a specific phase.
Cardiac rehab has four phases. Your doctor will determine
which phase is best for you to start your program.
When to call a doctor
of the following symptoms last for more than a few minutes before, during, or
after your exercise session, stop exercising and seek medical help:
- Any unusual discomfort, such as angina (chest pain or discomfort)
- Extremely heavy breathing
- Extreme sweating
- Abnormal changes in
heart rate, including either of the following:
- Unexplained low heart rate,
- Dramatically higher heart rate than your
target heart rate
- Abnormal blood pressure, including any of the
- Drop in systolic blood
- Failure of systolic blood pressure to
- Excessive blood pressure (over 240/100 millimeters of mercury,
or mm Hg)
- Blood sugar below 80 milligrams per deciliter
(mg/dL) or above 250 mg/dL
Phase I: Inpatient program
Phase I takes place in
the hospital after you have experienced a heart attack or other major heart
Phase I of cardiac rehab usually includes:
- Determining how well you can care for
yourself (bathing, dressing, and grooming) after your heart attack or
- Measuring your ability to
exercise. Your doctor will probably want you to have
an exercise test before you begin your cardiac rehab exercise program. This
test will show what types of exercise are safe for you and how soon you can
begin to exercise.
- Identifying which daily activities, such as
lifting, you can safely do.
- Providing patient and family
education about the lifestyle changes you need to
make, such as
eating healthy foods and stopping cigarette smoking.
Changes in your diet may be difficult to make. But even small changes can help
improve cholesterol levels and improve your health. For ideas that can help you
get started, see:
- Heart Disease: Eating a Heart-Healthy Diet.
- Doing light exercise, such as walking short
distances several times a day and possibly beginning a
Home program, phase II, and phase III: Outpatient programs