You’ve just suffered a significant cardiac event. Your doctor says you’re going to survive, but you’re not sure what to do from here. You know things will have to change, which means it’s time for you to consider cardiac rehabilitation.
According to the American Heart Association, cardiac rehabilitation is a medically supervised program designed to improve your cardiovascular health. You’re a prime candidate, regardless of age, if you have a heart condition or have experienced a traumatic event, including:
- Heart attack
- Heart failure
- Coronary Artery Disease
- Heart surgery
To celebrate “National Cardiac Rehabilitation Week,” and draw attention to the role cardiac rehabilitation plays in reducing the potentially devastating effects of heart disease, let's take a look at how it may help you.
Cardiac Rehabilitation Begins With A Physical
Once you get a referral from your doctor to begin cardiac rehabilitation, an individualized plan will be created for you. Your program will be tailored to the type of cardiac episode you’ve experienced.
The process begins with a physical exam, which will include heart tests such as ECGs. The results of these tests are used to determine several things, including:
- A baseline of your heart’s functionality
- How much stress you can put on your heart
- How frequently you must attend cardiac rehab
The results are used as a way to measure your progress throughout the program.
Components of Cardiac Rehabilitation
Think of cardiac rehabilitation like this: It’s like having a team of people as your own personal coaches and cheerleaders to help you develop a healthy lifestyle and make it a priority.
The components of cardiac rehabilitation include:
- Regular Physical Activity: From supervised activities to daily walks in the park, the goal is to get you up and moving.
- Diet Plan: You’ll learn how to develop a meal plan full of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains without giving up all of the things you love.
- Stress Reducers: You’ll be taught techniques to control and lower your stress levels.
- Medical Therapy: Your doctor will work with you to develop a medication plan, including dosage and frequency.
- Smoking Cessation: If you’re a smoker, a plan will be put in place to help you quit.
Everyone is different, so what’s right for someone else, may not be right for you. That’s why it’s important to talk to your doctor to come up with a plan that suits your needs.
Cardiac Rehabilitation Team Members
The team of medical professionals you will see during your cardiac rehab program includes:
- Exercise specialists (trainers)
Your cardiac rehab team is always available to answer your questions and help you through each part of the process. You will also need a team of people around you who understand what you’re going through.
Tell your family, friends and your employer that your heart problem is a wake-up call. If you want to get back to your regular responsibilities, make cardiac rehab your top priority. The American Heart Association also has a support network you can use.
What Can Cardiac Rehabilitation Do For You?
The ultimate goal of cardiac rehabilitation is to create a healthier you. You will look and feel much better in the end because cardiac rehab can help:
- Lower your chances for a second heart attack
- Decrease your risk for another heart surgery
- Reduce your overall risk for a future cardiac event
- Lessen the need for medications
- Control risk factors like high blood pressure and cholesterol
- Help with weight loss
As you make the journey toward better heart health, you will not only see the benefits, you’ll feel them. Even if you feel like you’ve only suffered a minor setback, take the first step to getting your life back by talking to your doctor about developing a cardiac rehabilitation program that’s right for you.
And if you’d like more information on heart disease, check out our guide “Heart Disease Facts.” In it, you’ll find the telltale signs that something is wrong with your heart and the risk factors that should matter most to you.