If you’ve recently suffered a heart attack or another type of heart condition, cardiac rehabilitation, also known as cardiac rehab, can help you enjoy a healthier, fuller life. When your doctor recommends cardiac rehab to you, you may be surprised to learn that exercise is part of it and worry that the exercise can make your heart condition worse. There’s no need for this fear, as it is designed to improve your cardiovascular health and you are supervised by a team of medical professionals who assist you in order to ensure that the program helps you, rather than hurts you.
Here is what you need to know about cardiac rehabilitation and how it works to help you recover.
What Is Cardiac Rehabilitation?
Cardiac rehabilitation is a comprehensive therapy program that includes education on heart health, nutritional counseling, prescribed exercise training, and support in order to help you recover after receiving medical treatment for a heart issue. It usually lasts about 3 months, with about 3 sessions a week.
How Does Cardiac Rehab Work?
There are three main phases: inpatient, outpatient, and ongoing.
You start rehabilitation as soon as possible after experiencing your heart event. Your physical therapist will work with you in the hospital along with your medical team. Patient education is a big part of cardiac rehab, especially in the first phase. Your physical therapist will ask you questions about your heart health and risk factors in order to formulate a plan specific to you.
You will complete some bedside exercises as your therapist monitors your heart rate, blood pressure, and oxygen level. Your physical therapist will adjust the exercises they give you accordingly in order to ensure that they both push you but are also safe for you to complete.
The inpatient part of cardiac rehab includes:
- EKG monitoring
- Heart rate tests
- Blood pressure tests
- Functional mobility tests
- Oxygen saturation tests
- Measurements of your range of motion and strength levels
After you’ve been discharged from the hospital, you’ll then move on to the next phase: outpatient rehabilitation. Here, you will go to your cardiac rehab appointments and then return home afterward. Your physical therapist will educate you on how to exercise properly and monitor your progress. Exercise can improve your cardiovascular health.
As you improve, the exercise will gradually become more intensive. Your physical therapist will help you learn how to monitor your own heart rate and how to work with any problems that arise. You learn about healthy lifestyle changes and how to implement them in your life.
Your physical therapist will conduct a physical therapy evaluation in order to test your progress since you started rehab. This includes tests such as getting up from a chair, walking, and then sitting back down, as well as biking, rowing, and other exercises.
Once you’re independent enough to safely exercise on your own, you can then move on to independent ongoing maintenance. Here, you evaluate your own risk factors and use the knowledge you gained to implement rehabilitation techniques in your daily life. A physical therapist can always help you if you have any concerns.
Once you have reached this part, you should be able to understand how to put together a heart-healthy eating plan, how to choose heart-healthy foods, how you can exercise safely and make it a priority, and how to manage your emotions. The goal of cardiac rehab is to strengthen your heart, and all of these things can help with that.
Do You Need To Be Hospitalized To Start Cardiac Rehab?
Cardiac rehab can benefit anyone suffering from a heart condition, such as:
- Heart failure
- Heart valve surgery
- Heart transplant
- Chronic stable angina
- Stent placement
- Coronary artery bypass
- And more.
You need a referral from your doctor in order to start cardiac rehab. Thus, while you do not need to be hospitalized, that is why most programs start while you are a patient in a hospital after experiencing a cardiac event.
If you think cardiac rehab could help you, talk to your doctor.
How Can Cardiac Rehab Help You?
Since cardiac rehab works to improve your cardiovascular health, it can help you to avoid future heart problems.
Some of its many benefits include:
- Lowered risk of future heart attacks
- Improved cardiovascular health
- Improved lung capacity
- Improved energy
- Improved mental health
- Reduced stress
- Improved healthy habits
- Improved blood pressure
- And more