Heart Disease and Cardiac Rehab

Although many doctors already recommend cardiac rehab for patients with heart disease, a new recommendation in the Journal of the American Medical Association, JAMA cardiology, will hopefully increase the amount of patients that take advantage of the program.

The recommendation comes in the form of a patient resource, and it addresses patients who have had a heart attack, stent inserted, or bypass surgery.

What is cardiac rehab?

Cardiac rehab is a program offered at rehabilitation facilities that teaches patients how to lower their risks of complications from heart disease and lead a healthier life. The main parts of the program are education about staying fit and healthy, proper nutrition, exercise awareness as well as exercise itself, psychological counseling and managing stress. They also address side issues such as diabetes control and cholesterol management. Patients who join the program have a better chance of seriously improving their outcomes, with side benefits of lower rates of anxiety and depression and lowered symptoms of stress.

Program generally run for twelve to eighteen weeks for about one hour, two or three times a week, for a total of thrity-six hours. Intensive programs offer seventy-two hours of rehab. They are comprised of a range of participants who need to learn more about heart health. They are operated by rehabilitation centers with a staff of instructors including doctors, nurses, health educators and therapists.

What are the benefits?

Dr. Tamara Horwich, who co-authored the recommendation, said “There are short-term and long-term benefits to participating, including less chest pain, less depression, and a decreased risk of death from heart disease.” Dr. Horwich is the director of the cardiac rehab program at the University of California at Los Angeles, UCLA.

What are the impediments?

While the recommendation makes it seem like every person who has a risk should join the program, some people may not be able to, even if they need it, for various reason. One of them  is insurance, as not all programs are currently covered for all patients, and this is something that needs advocacy. Also, patients may have transportation issues, and may not have time for a full cardiac rehab program.

The patient’s view

By the time a person is sent for cardiac rehab, he has often been through one of the my challenging experiences a person can face. So there’s no starting from scratch – there’s only taking a person who has already ingrained in himself very strong, and often unhealthy, habits and trying to teach them how to redo their current lifestyles. This, of course, can be a daunting task, both for the instructors as well as the patients. It takes a strong commitment on the side of the patient, and real will to turn things around and avoid future consequences. It also takes the support of the cardiac rehab team, who are there to hold his hand through all of the changes he needs to make.

At Sinai Post Acute Care, we offer an excellent cardiac rehab program for patients who have heart disease or have experienced traumatic heart issues. We individualize each plan to meet the needs of all of our patients.