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Understanding the value of cardiac rehab

Last Modified: February 11, 2018

Heart Health

For many who experience a heart-related health episode, Phase 2 cardiac rehabilitation is the next step in the recovery process. Typically, this program begins two or three weeks after you have been released from the hospital or after a follow-up visit with your physician.

Each session will last approximately 45 – 60 minutes, during which a nurse or exercise specialist monitors your heart rate, heart rhythm and blood pressure. Depending upon your specific needs, Phase 2 can last from four to 18 weeks.

Qualifying conditions for cardiac rehab include:

  • Chest pain
  • Heart attack
  • Stents or balloon repairs to the heart
  • Heart surgery, including bypass or valve surgery
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Heart transplant

According to the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation, studies have shown that individuals who complete a cardiac rehabilitation program can increase average life expectancy by as many as five years. It can also mean improved confidence and general well-being, overall work capacity, weight maintenance, blood circulation, heart function, blood pressure, resting heart rate and blood cholesterol, triglycerides and sugar levels.

Understanding your heart condition is an important first step in managing it. The cardiac rehab team will provide information for you and your family which address all aspects of the disease, including:

  • Modifying risk factors
  • Understanding medications
  • Managing diabetes
  • Identifying exercises you can do at home
  • Understanding stress and relaxation
  • Strategies for smoking cessation

For more on the benefits, we asked four members of the cardiac rehabilitation teams at our community hospitals for their answers to three rehab-related questions. Here, Lori Miller, BSN, RN, RN-BC, nursing services manager, Parkview Wabash Hospital, Melissa Lane, RRT, registered respiratory care practitioner, Parkview Whitley Hospital, Shelby Sheets, RN, coordinator, Cardiopulmonary Rehab, Parkview Huntington Hospital and Kimberly Clouse, RRT, CPFT, respiratory therapist, Parkview Noble Hospital, share their thoughts.

Why is cardiac rehab so important?

Shelby: It not only strengthens your heart, but it improves your outcome for the future.

Kimberly: So many reasons! It improves heart and lung function after a heart event or cardiovascular procedure, establishes the habit of exercise so patients can continue at home after cardiac rehab, improves blood cholesterol levels, lowers blood pressure, controls diabetes or reduces the risk of getting the disease, helps to reach and maintain a healthy weight, makes muscles stronger so you can stay more active, helps to prevent falls and fractures by slowing the loss of bone mass, helps patients manage stress better and educates them on a healthy lifestyle.

Melissa: It helps improve your cardiovascular health. We monitor your heart rate/rhythm, and blood pressure while working out. This is the first step to a new healthy lifestyle! Exercise gets your heart pumping and your whole body moving. In cardiac rehab, you get education on heart health, tips and a class on heart healthy eating, quitting smoking, reducing stress, support and more. After graduating from the cardiac rehab program, it is important for the patient to take the next step in maintaining their heart health by continuing to exercise and/or joining a local gym.

Lori: Cardiac rehab is a complement to the care given after a cardiac event has occurred. Patients are monitored by cardiac experts during exercise, so they’re able to begin this phase of a healthier lifestyle in a controlled environment. During the healing phases of the heart, after an event, can be a crucial time. Having a staff closely monitoring their vital signs, medication and cardiac heart rhythm is so important.

How can a patient set themselves up for success with cardiac rehab?

Kimberly: Having a successful outcome in cardiac rehab is definitely patient-dependent.  Patients only get out of it what they put into it. They have to be compliant and attend cardiac rehab three times per week, take their medication as prescribed, improve their diets, quit smoking, lose weight, and follow the instructions of their therapist. Doing these things will help prevent future heart events and readmission to the hospital. 

Melissa: Patients can set themselves up for success by attending all cardiac rehab classes with a positive attitude and motivation to improve their health. We try and make classes fun and laugh a lot.

Shelby: Patients will be successful if they’re willing to do the work. It takes effort to get up and exercise and maintain compliance with the program. Regular physical exercise, medication compliance, and adhering to a healthier diet ensures success in the program.

What is your biggest tip for avoiding readmission after a heart episode/surgery?

Melissa: The biggest tip we give for avoiding readmission is to continue exercising and follow a heart-healthy diet.

Lori: Patient involvement along with their family members in the rehab setting. It’s important both know how to recognize and address issues.

Shelby: Pay attention to what your body tells you, and remember what we covered in the program.

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