Cardiovascular disease is the leading killer of people in the industrialized world. Despite the fact that so many people die from cardiovascular disease every year, less than 20% of people that survive a heart attack or coronary bypass surgery participate in a cardiac rehabilitation program.
If you have had heart trouble in the past, a cardiac rehab program can literally save your life. We may not be able to tell you everything you need to know about cardiac rehabilitation on this page but we are going to share some information so that you will know what to expect if you choose to be proactive about your heart health.
What Is Involved in a Cardiac Rehabilitation Program?
The first step in a cardiac rehab program is a medical evaluation. Your doctors and nurses will conduct some tests and try to determine both your physical abilities and any limitations that you might have. Your medical team will keep track of your progress and monitor your risk factors throughout the rehabilitation program.
A cardiac rehabilitation program will also involve regular exercise. Things like walking, bicycling, swimming and other exercises will be used to increase your endurance and improve cardiovascular function. You will be taught how to exercise properly and you will be under the close supervision of medical professionals while you are working out.
The next step in a cardiac rehabilitation program is lifestyle education. You’ll learn a lot about nutrition so that you can make healthier food choices. You will learn to avoid things like excess sodium, saturated fats, sugar and cholesterol. You’ll also learn about which types of foods you should be eating for better cardiovascular health. Things like fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, poultry, whole grains etc. You will also receive counseling to help you correct bad habits like excessive alcohol consumption and smoking. These types of things can be deadly, especially to someone who has already experienced heart problems.
A cardiac rehabilitation program may also include counseling to deal with some of the mental and emotional issues that can arise after suffering from heart problems. Some patients may feel depressed or anxious after going through a traumatic experience like having a heart attack or open heart surgery. Some patients feel depressed because they may not be able to do the things that they used to be able to do. Counseling will be able to help people cope with feelings of depression or anxiety. If necessary, a doctor may even prescribe medications that will help.
Who Is a Candidate for Cardiac Rehabilitation?
Certainly anyone who has had heart trouble in the past might be a candidate for a cardiac rehab program. It’s not just reserved for people of a certain age, people of any age can benefit from cardiac rehab. Because you’ll learn to make certain lifestyle changes that include adopting a healthy diet and incorporating regular exercise into your daily life, this type of program can be beneficial to most people.
While a cardiac rehab program can literally save your life, this type of program is not necessarily for everyone who has suffered from heart disease. During the first step in a cardiac rehab program, when your medical team is conducting their evaluation, they will be able to determine if you are a good candidate for the program.
Are There Any Risks Associated with Cardiac Rehabilitation Programs?
Because exercise is a big part of the rehabilitation program, there is always the risk of injury. It’s possible that you will sprain an ankle or pull a muscle but you will be exercising under the close supervision of professionals which will help to minimize these types of risks.
Of course if you are recovering from a serious heart condition, you’ll have to be very careful about the level of physical activity you do. But again, you will be closely supervised by medical professionals that will be monitoring your vital signs and making sure you are exercising safely.
Your cardiac rehabilitation program will likely begin while you are still in the hospital so you will be surrounded by medical professionals. Even if your cardiac rehabilitation is part of an outpatient program, you will still be receiving advice from medical professionals and you will be visiting your doctor for regular checkups.