What is Cardiac Rehab?

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  • Written By: M. DePietro
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 25 December 2019
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A cardiac rehabilitation program helps people who have various types of heart conditions improve their health. The program is intended for people with conditions, such as congestive heart failure, coronary artery disease and those recovering from a heart attack. Often doctors will recommend cardiac rehab to patients who have had heart surgery, such as coronary bypass or a valve replacement surgery.

Although the length of a cardiac rehab program may vary, many programs are divided into two phases. The initial phase and the long term maintenance phase. The initial phase is often about four months long and usually includes both educational classes and a closely supervised exercise program. Participants in the maintenance phase of cardiac rehab are also monitored, however they may not need as close supervision.

One of the goals of a cardiac rehabilitation program usually involves teaching patients how to live a healthy lifestyle and manage any symptoms the patient may have. Education may include nutritional classes on ways to reduce cholesterol and eat foods which are good for overall health. Information is also provided on ways to lower blood pressure, reduce stress and quit smoking.


In addition to the education offered in a cardiac rehab program, most programs include a supervised exercise component. Patients are taught about the benefits of cardiovascular exercise as well as how to warm up and gradually increase the intensity of a workout. Usually a registered nurse, specializing in cardiac rehabilitation, will supervise and monitor the exercise classes.

Patients will often start doing light cardiovascular exercise, such as walking on a treadmill or riding a stationary bike. While exercising, participants may have their heart rate, blood pressure and oxygen level monitored. Strength training classes may also be held, which teach participants proper technique. Patients work at their own pace, an individual goals may be set to help patients monitor their progress.

After completion of the initial phase of a cardiac rehab program, some individuals may want to continue in the maintenance phase of the program. Maintenance programs may vary, but often include an open gym, where participants can workout during certain hours. Vital signs may be taken after a workout, or group classes conducted.

Cardiac rehab programs also provide emotional support to participants in a number of ways. Information is given on how to deal with physical changes and deal with any health limitations. Patients also may provide emotional support to one another, since they all have some type of heart condition in common. Recognized organizations, such as the American Heart Association, recommends cardiac rehab to those who qualify.



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