What is cardiac rehabilitation?
Cardiac rehabilitation, also called cardiac rehab, is a program to help you improve your health when you have a heart problem. Cardiac rehab includes:
- Learning about a heart-healthy lifestyle
- Exercise that is right for you and your condition
- Follow up visits or phone calls from the cardiac rehab staff
Cardiac rehab helps you get back to normal activities slowly and safely. A rehab program usually lasts from 4 to 12 weeks.
When is it used?
Cardiac rehab can help you:
- Live better with heart problems, such as angina (chest pain) or heart failure.
- Recover after a heart attack or heart surgery.
If you don’t have heart disease, but are out of shape, rehab can help you get in better health and lower your risk for heart disease.
How does it work?
A team of healthcare providers will develop a program that meets your individual needs. The team may include doctors, nurses, physical therapists, dietitians, and counselors.
You program may start while you are in the hospital. This usually includes short walks and stretching exercises. Your blood pressure and heart rate will be checked before and after exercise.
After you go home, you will slowly increase how much exercise you do. You may have an exercise treadmill test to help develop a safe exercise program for you.
Your program will also include classes and support groups to learn why it is important to control high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, or other things that can cause serious heart problems. Rehab helps you learn how to take care of yourself now and prevent problems in the future. This includes heart-healthy changes such as:
- If you smoke, try to quit. Talk to your healthcare provider about ways to quit smoking.
- Lose weight if you are overweight and eat a healthy diet.
- Lower the amount of salt, saturated and trans fats, and cholesterol in your diet.
- Follow your healthcare provider’s advice about how much liquid you should drink.
- Ask your provider if you should avoid drinking alcohol. Alcohol can weaken your heart or may worsen heart failure. Also, some of your medicines may not work well if you drink alcohol.
- Work with your healthcare provider to control diabetes, blood pressure, or other health problems you may have. Learn how to take your own blood pressure or have a family member learn how to take it.
- Be physically active. Exercise helps your heart and body get stronger. It also improves your blood flow and energy level. Balance exercise with rest.
- Learn to manage the stress in your life. Anxiety and anger can cause a fast heart rate and high blood pressure.
- Protect yourself against infections. Get a flu shot every year. Get the pneumococcal shot as recommended by your healthcare provider.
- Work as a partner with your healthcare team. This means having regular provider visits and following your treatment plan.
What are the benefits?
Cardiac rehabilitation can:
- Increase your chances of surviving a heart attack.
- Help prevent other heart problems.
- Increase your ability to be active and exercise.
- Help you return to work sooner.
- Develop habits for a lifetime of heart health.
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This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
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