Cardiac rehabilitation is a program designed to help people recovering from heart disease get back on the road to heart health. In fact, rehab can do a lot to speed your recovery and reduce your chances of future heart problems.
Rehab gave Lidia Morales a new perspective. “Surviving the surgery and then going through cardiac rehab was life-changing for me,” Lidia says. “You really learn to not take things for granted when you have such a hard time doing the smallest things like walking, brushing your teeth or opening a window.”
How long does rehab last?
You may need six weeks, six months or longer to learn how to manage your condition and develop healthier habits. Many programs last only three months, but some continue for years.
Christie Thompson’s experience with rehab was so successful and positive that she developed one to help maintain the health benefits long term. “After the official program was over, I created my own routine that included cardio every single day and healthier eating,” says Christie.
Who needs rehab?
People of all ages with heart conditions can benefit from a cardiac rehab program. Generally, rehab will take place at a hospital with a rehab team or with the help of your doctor, nurse or other healthcare providers. They’re usually designed to provide education and counseling services to help heart patients increase physical fitness, reduce cardiac symptoms and improve health. You may benefit if you have or have had a:
- Heart attack or heart surgery
- Coronary artery disease (CAD), angina or heart failure
- Coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery, angioplasty, stenting, valve replacement or a pacemaker or implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD)
A typical rehab program consists of:
- Exercise using a treadmill, bike, rowing machine or walking/jogging track
- Being monitored for a change in symptoms, heart rate, blood pressure and EKG
- A slow progression to more intense aerobic activity, like strength training, that lets you work longer and harder
- Counseling and education to help you understand your condition and how to cope with depression, stress and anger
- Learning how to create a healthy eating plan, and other support to help you resume normal activities
What’s the goal of a rehab program?
The goal of most rehab programs is to help you make healthy changes to your lifestyle, with a strong focus on exercise. You might think this would only be challenging for those who aren’t gym rats. But the truth is that it can actually be more challenging for women who are used to an active lifestyle but have found themselves in a position where they have to slow down and exercise less strenuously.
How else does it help me?
From classes to help you quit smoking to working with a nutritionist to help create a healthy eating plan, rehab can provide a wealth of heart health information that can really change your lifestyle in so many positive ways.
Following a successful surgery, Amy Heinl began the long journey toward recovery. Though she was accustomed to a busy and active lifestyle, her rehab began with a few simple steps on a treadmill, which was not an easy adjustment. But before she knew it, she was competing in a race – a 5K just three months after a surgery to repair a torn artery. Now, Amy doesn’t run every day because it’s good for her heart, she runs because she can, and because it symbolizes overcoming a major obstacle in her life.