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What Can Cardiac Rehab do for You?


There are a lot of reasons to participate fully in a cardiac rehabilitation program. In most cases, cardiac rehab starts when you’re still in the hospital and takes you through the different phases of your recovery, until you’re ready for minimal supervision. People generally need cardiac rehab after having heart surgery such as bypass, valve replacement and heart transplant. There are two main aspects of any program, no matter what phase of recovery you’re in: 

  • To provide overall education about your condition and how to lower your risk of heart trouble in the future. This includes giving you helpful information about what kinds of foods you should eat (often including help with meal planning), how to manage the stress in your life and what to do if depression is affecting you.
  • To develop a safe, individual exercise program for you that will strengthen your muscles and improve your general fitness level

The length of time you spend in a cardiac rehab program is entirely related to your particular situation. Some people need to spend six weeks, some need to spend a year. It all depends on your condition.

What should you look for in a rehab program?
It’s likely that your doctor will be able to recommend a program that will meet your needs. But don’t just sign up without doing some investigating on your own. Here are some of the things you want to consider before your join a program:

Is it convenient for you to get there? You don’t want traffic jams on the way to rehab adding to the stress of your day.

Does the setting match your needs? Is it a group program, and if so, do you like that idea? Many people do enjoy being in a group. They often make lasting friendships and support each other along the way. Just make sure you feel comfortable with the program’s arrangement.

Does the program offer help in the specific areas you need? For example, if you need to learn about healthy eating habits, will you get that from the program? If you smoke, will the program offer quit-smoking plans? Remember, the better aligned it is with your needs, the more you’ll get out of it.

How much does it cost? Don’t assume your insurance will cover everything. Sometimes it does, but sometimes it will offer only partial coverage. Figure out whether you can afford to make up the difference of any part insurance doesn’t cover.

Visit the rehab facility before you sign up. Make sure you feel comfortable with the staff and the general atmosphere of the place.

An active role helps you get the most out of your program

While you’re in rehab, be sure to play an active role. What does that mean?

  • Ask questions whenever you don’t understand something.
  • If there’s something about the program that doesn’t seem to be working for you, talk with your healthcare team about it. For example, if your exercise routine seems too difficult (or too easy), make sure you ask the team whether you need to make a change.
  • Stick with it. Being in cardiac rehab takes discipline. But like anything, the more you put into it, the more you get out of it. Don’t give up!

American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation; American Heart Association; National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; Society of Thoracic Surgeons.
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