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Cardiac Rehabilitation

What is cardiac rehabilitation?

Cardiac rehabilitation is a physician-supervised program for people who have either congenital or acquired heart disease. Program participants may or may not have had a heart attack or heart surgery (or other heart procedures). Cardiac rehabilitation can often improve functional capacity, reduce symptoms, and create a sense of well-being for patients. A physician may prescribe cardiac rehabilitation for a patient in certain situations.

What conditions may benefit from cardiac rehabilitation?

Picture of a female physician reviewing a chart with a patient

Conditions or cardiac procedures that may necessitate cardiac rehabilitation may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • angina pectoris

  • myocardial infarction (heart attack)

  • post-open heart surgery

  • post-heart transplantation

  • balloon angioplasty

  • stent placement

  • pacemaker

  • congenital heart disease

  • arrhythmias

  • rheumatic heart disease

  • heart failure

The cardiac rehabilitation team:

Cardiac rehabilitation programs can be conducted while a person is a hospital inpatient or on an outpatient basis. Many skilled professionals are part of the cardiac rehabilitation team, including any/all of the following:

  • cardiologist / cardiovascular surgeon

  • physiatrist

  • internist

  • rehabilitation nurse

  • dietitian and nutritionist

  • physical therapist

  • occupational therapist

  • speech / language therapist

  • psychologist / psychiatrist

  • recreational therapist

  • audiologist

  • chaplain

  • vocational therapist

The cardiac rehabilitation program:

A cardiac rehabilitation program is designed to meet the needs of the individual patient, depending upon the specific heart problem or disease, and should be supervised by a cardiac physician and a team of cardiac professionals. The program's length may range from six weeks to a year or longer and will depend on your specific needs.

The goal of cardiac rehabilitation is to help patients reverse their symptoms and maximize cardiac function. Cardiac rehabilitation includes, but is not limited to, the following activities:

  • establishing a progressive exercise program to build fitness and functional capacity

  • providing educational classes to help adjust to or change the patient's lifestyle and habits, such as:

    • smoking cessation classes

    • nutrition classes

  • offering stress management techniques and techniques to reduce anxiety

  • counseling and educating the patient with regards to his/her specific heart condition/disease and the best management approach for that specific condition

  • preparing the patient to return to work - equipping him/her to meet the physical and psychological demands of the job

Online Resources

American Heart Association  http://americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=3047638
American Heart Association  http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=3047844
American Heart Association  http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=4490
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute  http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/rehab/rehab_start.html

© 2000-2011 Krames StayWell, 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.