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. 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
certain 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.
Inpatient program: Phase I
Phase I takes place in
the hospital after you have experienced a heart attack, heart surgery, 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 quitting 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
Outpatient programs: Phase II, Phase III, and Phase IV
The remaining three phases of your cardiac rehab take
place outside the hospital. At first, your rehab team will keep a close watch
on how exercise affects your heart and how you are progressing, before
gradually releasing you from supervision to continue cardiac rehab on your own.
The healthier lifestyle you've learned—including eating a balanced diet,
exercising regularly, and not smoking—can then become a way of life for