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Cardiac Rehabilitation


What is cardiac rehabilitation?

Cardiac rehabilitation (rehab) is a program recommended to help you recover from a heart condition or procedure. A cardiac rehab team includes doctors, nurses, exercise specialists, physical or occupational therapists, dietitians, and mental health providers. These healthcare providers will help you understand how to manage your condition and prevent your symptoms from getting worse. Cardiac rehab may last for several weeks or months, depending on your condition. The goal is to safely strengthen your heart, return to your normal daily activities, and prevent future heart problems.

Why do I need cardiac rehab?

Your healthcare provider may recommend you attend cardiac rehab for the following reasons:

  • Help you recover from a heart attack, heart procedure, or surgery
  • Reduce your risk for future heart disease, heart attacks, and heart failure
  • Help keep your heart problems or symptoms from worsening
  • Improve your heart function, mood, self-esteem, and quality of life
  • Help you manage other health conditions that can make your heart condition worse

What does cardiac rehab include?

Cardiac rehab specialists will examine you, ask about your symptoms, and make sure any medicine you take is working. They may use tests, such as an EKG, to monitor your heart rate and rhythm. They will also work with you individually and help you with the following:

  • Manage other health conditions that can worsen your heart condition. Your cardiac rehab team will monitor other health conditions you have. They may give you medicine and teach you ways to control your blood sugar level, blood pressure, or cholesterol level. They will also help you create a weight loss plan if you are overweight. You may receive counseling if you are depressed, anxious, angry, or stressed. These feelings are common with heart disease. A counselor can teach you ways to reduce your stress and improve your mood. This may help improve your heart condition and quality of life.
  • Exercise safely. A physical or exercise therapist will create an exercise plan that is best for you. He will help you slowly and safely increase your activity without making your symptoms worse. He will show you safe ways to warm up and cool down when you exercise. Exercise can help you control blood pressure, weight, and blood sugar and cholesterol levels. The goal of cardiac rehab is to help you be able to safely exercise 30 to 60 minutes every day, or as directed.
  • Create a heart-healthy nutrition plan. Healthy nutrition can help protect and strengthen your heart, and control your weight. A nutritionist will teach you which heart-healthy foods to eat. He will help you create a meal plan that includes vegetables, fruits, omega-3 fatty acids, and high-fiber foods. You may also need to be on a low-sodium or low-fat diet.
  • Quit smoking. If you smoke, it is never too late to quit. Smoking can increase your risk for a heart attack or stroke. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you need help quitting.
  • Limit alcohol. Your healthcare provider will tell you if alcohol is safe for you to drink. Alcohol can make your heart problems worse, and interact with your medicine. Women should limit alcohol to 1 drink a day. Men should limit alcohol to 2 drinks a day. A drink of alcohol is 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1½ ounces of liquor.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care or call 911?

  • You have any of the following signs of a heart attack:
    • Squeezing, pressure, or pain in your chest
    • and any of the following:
      • Discomfort or pain in your back, neck, jaw, stomach, or arm
      • Shortness of breath
      • Nausea or vomiting
      • Lightheadedness or a sudden cold sweat

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.