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Heart Disease Health Center

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Cardiac Rehabilitation - What to Expect

The goal of cardiac rehabilitation (rehab) is to help you reestablish and maintain a healthy, active lifestyle after a major heart problem, such as a heart attack or heart surgery, or if you have a long-term heart condition. Rehab can help you return to work, resume recreational and other activities, and resume a normal sex life.

To keep getting the benefits of cardiac rehab, you will have to continue to exercise and follow the healthy lifestyle changes you've learned.

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Exercise and lifestyle changes. Although exercise is a significant part of cardiac rehab, lifestyle changes combined with exercise may be more important than exercise alone in keeping your heart healthy. Staying with your program can give you the support you need to make these changes a permanent part of your life and may help reduce the risk of further serious heart problems.

Getting back to work. After you have a heart problem (such as a heart attack or heart surgery), cardiac rehab can help you return to work safely. How quickly you can return to work depends on how bad your heart problem is and how much physical activity your job requires. Your rehab program might include job or vocational counseling.

Resuming sex. You or your partner may be worried that you will have symptoms such as chest pain or will not have enough energy for sex. Sharing your concerns and fears about having sex is important for both partners. Both partners need to feel ready to restart having sex. Ask your doctor or a member of your rehab team when it's safe for you to have sex.

Managing stress.Stress management may lower the risk of serious heart problems, such as heart attacks. People who do not deal well with anger and frustration may have a higher risk of coronary artery disease. Learning to manage stress is often part of programs to help you make positive changes in your lifestyle.

Seeking treatment for depression.Depression is often overlooked, especially in older adults, but commonly occurs after a serious heart problem. Depression can make it difficult for you to have the energy to perform some of the cardiac rehab programs. If you feel you suffer from symptoms of depression, make sure you seek help.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: March 12, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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