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Cardiac Rehabilitation

What is cardiac rehabilitation?

Cardiac rehabilitation is a doctor-supervised program for people who have most kinds of 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.

What conditions may benefit from cardiac rehabilitation?

Athletic trainer helps man who is on a treadmill
A cardiac rehabilitation program is designed to meet the needs of the individual.

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

  • Pacemaker

  • Stent placement

  • 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 or all of the following:

  • Cardiologist or cardiovascular surgeon

  • Physiatrist

  • Internist

  • Other specialty doctors

  • Rehabilitation specialists

  • Registered dietitian and nutritionist

  • Physical therapist

  • Occupational therapist

  • Speech or language therapist

  • Psychologist or psychiatrist

  • Recreational therapist

  • Chaplain

  • Vocational therapist

The cardiac rehabilitation program

A cardiac rehabilitation program is designed to meet the needs of the individual patient, depending on the specific heart problem or disease, and should be supervised by a cardiac doctor 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 regard to his or her specific heart condition or disease and the best management approach for that specific condition

  • Preparing the patient to return to work by equipping him or her to meet the physical and psychological demands of the job

Online Medical Reviewer: Foster, Sara, RN, MPH
Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Date Last Reviewed: 4/17/2014
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