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Reducing the Effects of Heart Disease Through Cardiac Rehabilitation

March 15, 2019

The statistics about heart disease are daunting. It’s the No. 1 cause of death for both men and women in the United States, and its impact is even greater than that. More than 28 million Americans have been diagnosed with heart disease and are living with the condition, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As serious as heart disease is, having it is not a death sentence. Cardiac rehabilitation can help you maintain and/or improve your heart health, even if you have heart disease.

What Is Cardiac Rehabilitation?

Cardiac rehab is a medically supervised program designed to improve your cardiovascular health. It is a customized outpatient program of exercise and education that provides information about exercise, healthy lifestyle, modifying stress and risk factors.

Common conditions that warrant cardiac rehabilitation include:

  • A recent heart attack
  • Heart conditions such as congenital heart disease, stable angina (chest pain) and heart failure
  • Heart procedures such as percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), which includes angioplasty or cardiac stenting
  • Heart surgery such as coronary artery bypass surgery, heart valve repair or replacement
  • Heart or heart–lung transplant
  • Peripheral vascular disease
  • Pulmonary hypertension

The rehabilitation helps reduce some of the mainstays of heart conditions, such as chest pain, shortness of breath and fatigue. It also improves blood pressures, reduces lipid and blood sugar levels and increases exercise performance. In addition, cardiac rehab helps with weight loss, increases the ability to perform activities of daily living, and improves the likelihood of returning to work or performing leisure activities. 

Building Blocks of Cardiac RehabilitationImage of a stethoschope

When you’re living with heart disease, you may be anxious about how active you can be or uncertain about how to maintain your health. Cardiac rehabilitation is designed with four essential components.

  1. A medical evaluation: Your healthcare team will perform an initial evaluation to check your physical abilities, medical limitations and other conditions you may have. This helps your team tailor a cardiac rehabilitation program that meets your individual needs and ensures a safe and effective program for you. The cardiac rehab team typically includes doctors, nurses, physical and/or occupational therapists, a nutritionist, pharmacist, mental health professional and case managers.
  2. Supervised exercise counseling and training: Exercise gets your heart pumping and   your entire cardiovascular system working. Your healthcare team makes sure the program moves at a comfortable pace and is safe for you.
  3. Healthy lifestyle education: You will receive support and education on making healthy lifestyle changes, such as eating a heart-healthy diet, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight and quitting smoking. Your healthcare team also may give you guidance about managing conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol.
  4. Counseling to reduce stress:  Depression and anxiety are common among patients with heart disease. You may have access to a counselor or social worker, as well as peer support. Counseling can help you learn healthy ways to cope with any depression and anxiety.

Types of Exercises

Cardiac rehabilitation programs generally last three months, with sessions two or three times a week. During that time, your healthcare team will teach you proper exercise techniques, such as warming up and cooling down. An exercise routine usually includes both aerobic exercise (to get your heart rate up) and muscle-strengthening activities. Typically the sessions last 30 to 45 minutes.

Examples of aerobic exercises:

  • Walking on treadmill
  • Cycling
  • Rowing
  • Climbing stairs

    Examples of strengthening activities (resistance training):

  • Lifting weights -- hand weights, free weights, or weight machines
  • Using a wall pulley
  • Using elastic bands
  • Using your own body weight

With its multi-pronged approach, cardiac rehab gives you the tools, knowledge and motivation needed to fight the progression of cardiovascular disease with your heart and soul.


Choose a Healthy Heart

The Orlando Health Heart Institute’s Cardiovascular Rehabilitation Program treats patients with a three-part process to improve cardiovascular function and increase endurance. Our team of skilled clinicians — including cardiac nurses, exercise physiologists, dietitians, pharmacists and social workers — work together to help you successfully manage your heart and vascular conditions. 

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