Getting Started In Cardiac Rehab

Cardiac rehabilitation can help your loved one feel better and live longer.

There are two main types of cardiac rehabilitation. Inpatient cardiac rehab often begins in the hospital after a heart attack, heart surgery, or other heart treatment. It will continue after your loved one leaves the hospital. Outpatient rehab may be located at the hospital, in a medical or professional center, in a community facility such as the YMCA, at your loved one’s place of work, or at home.

While cardiac rehab often takes place in groups, each patient’s plan is based on his or her specific risk factors and special needs. Your loved one’s rehab may last weeks, months, or even longer. However long the rehab program, it is important that your loved one complete the recommended plan. Encourage your loved one as he or she goes through cardiac rehab. No matter how difficult it seems, hard work will have lifelong benefits.

Due to the difficult nature of rehab, your loved one may question its benefits. Cardiac rehab can:

  • Reduce your loved one’s symptoms and his or her chances of having more heart problems
  • Tone muscles and improve energy level and spirits
  • Get your loved one back to work and other activities faster
  • Help your loved one quit smoking. Kicking the habit reduces the risk of lung cancer, emphysema, and bronchitis, as well as of heart attack, stroke, and other heart and blood vessel problems
  • Teach your loved one to manage stress

How Does Cardiac Rehab Work?

Cardiac rehab has two major parts:

  • Exercise training helps your loved one learn how to exercise safely, strengthen muscles, and improve stamina. Your loved one’s exercise plan will be based on his or her individual ability, needs, and interests.
  • Education, counseling, and training will help your loved one understand his or her heart condition and find ways to reduce the risk of future heart problems. The cardiac rehab team will teach your loved one how to cope with the stress of adjusting to a new lifestyle, and deal with fears about the future.

Aerobic exercise raises the pulse rate and causes one to perspire, helping improve the flow of oxygen-rich blood throughout the body. Strength training, such as using weights, improves muscle strength and stamina. Both types of exercise, in the right amount, are safe and important for heart health.

Finding A Plan That’s Right

If your loved one’s doctor, nurse, or physical therapist recommends a cardiac rehab plan, here are some points to consider:

  • Time—Is it offered when your loved one can get there without causing added stress?
  • Place—Is it easy to get to? Is parking available or will your loved one need to use public transportation? Keep in mind that traffic problems can add to stress.
  • Setting—Will your loved one fit better in an individual or group plan? Is it home-based or in a rehab facility? Discuss the available options with your loved one.
  • Services—Does it offer a wide range of services? More importantly, does it emphasize the areas where your loved one needs the most help?
  • Cost—Is it affordable? Is it covered by insurance? Your loved one’s insurance may cover all or part of the cost of some cardiac rehab services but not others. Find out what services will be covered and for how long.

Maintaining Goals

For your loved one to gain more control over his or her heart disease, he or she must remember the goals of his or her cardiac rehab plan. A special calendar just for rehab activities may be helpful.

Some people with heart problems feel depressed when they find out about their disease or after surgery. When one is depressed, it is hard to do things to help feel better, such as going to cardiac rehab or getting back to usual activities. If your loved one is seriously depressed, don’t hesitate to get professional help.

© Copyright FamilyCare America, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Adapted from Recovering From Heart Problems Through Cardiac Rehabilitation, AHCPR Publication No. 96-0647, United States Agency for Health Care Policy and Research.

You are in the
Click for related topics:
Heart Disease, HIV/AIDS 
and more...

Caregivers Handbook

This handy guide provides resources, checklists and worksheets
 - all in one place.