Exercise is a Key Part of Recovering From a Heart Attack

cardiac rehab

Heart attacks are one of the most common medical crisis/conditions in the country, and after a heart attack your treatment is likely to include cardiac rehabilitation exercises. This program is designed to provide monitored exercises and education related to your heart condition.

Cardiac rehabilitation is a medically supervised program designed to help you improve your heart health and much more. In fact, a study published in a well-known medical journal found that participating in cardiac rehabilitation can reduce your risk of death and other conditions as well.

What is cardiac rehabilitation?

Cardiac rehabilitation is an outpatient program that helps patients recover from heart attacks, cardiac bypass surgery, heart failure (CHF), stable angina, valve replacement or repair, coronary stenting and heart transplants.

“The goals of a cardiac rehabilitation program are to improve strength and endurance, reduce cardiac symptoms, such as chest pain and shortness of breath, and reduce the risk of future cardiac problems,” said Jay Ambrose, MD, FACC, who is board-certified in Cardiovascular Disease, Interventional Cardiology and Nuclear Cardiology at DuBois Regional Cardiology Associates in DuBois, St. Marys and Punxsutawney.

There are three common components to a cardiac rehabilitation program:

  • Exercise training. A certified exercise specialist will show you how to work out in a way that is safe and beneficial for your heart. They will teach you the proper form of specific exercises.
  • Education. You will learn what it takes to avoid future heart problems through lifestyle changes, proper nutrition, medication management, smoking cessation and stress reduction.
  • Counseling. A psychologist or counselor will help you recognize and deal with depression, which often occurs after a heart problem. You will also learn how to manage stress, which can negatively affect your heart health.

How long does cardiac rehabilitation last?

The length of a cardiac rehabilitation program varies from patient to patient, but typically lasts at least three months. Patients may be referred to the program as an inpatient but usually the program does not begin until after your discharge from the hospital. A common cardiac rehabilitation schedule might look like this:

  • Phase 1: Outpatient rehabilitation will consist of appointments after discharge as you participate in a monitored exercise program.
  • Phase 2: Self-management, where you continue exercises on your own after the program ends.

Who may benefit from cardiac rehabilitation?

Cardiac rehabilitation can be beneficial regardless of your age and whether your heart issue was minor or major. Cardiologists may refer patients for cardiac rehabilitation who have experienced the following conditions:

  • Heart attack, angina (“Heart Pain“) or blocked arteries.
  • Congestive heart failure that is associated with weakening of the heart muscle.
  • After having angioplasty or a stent to open a blocked artery.
  • After bypass surgery, valve replacement or other cardiac surgery.

Is it safe to exercise after a heart attack?

“It is perfectly understandable for patients who have had a heart attack to be afraid that their heart is too weak to exercise; but, exercise, managed by a cardiac rehabilitation specialist, is essential for recovering after a serious heart condition. Cardiac rehabilitation exercises are designed specifically for patients who recently experienced a heart event. As always, talk with your physician before beginning any exercise program,” explained Dr. Ambrose.

The Cardiac Rehabilitation Program at Penn Highlands Healthcare is designed to help individuals return to good heart health and achieve a higher quality of life through exercise and education, while improving their mental and physical health. To learn more, visit www.phhealthcare.org/cardiacrehab.