Each year about 800,000 people in the US have a myocardial infarction (MI), referred to more commonly as a heart attack. Patients experiencing a MI undergo several tests, procedures, and treatments to stabilize the condition of the heart. After emergent treatment is complete, doctors will recommend cardiac rehabilitation for continued support. Cardiac rehab is done to improve the heart’s function and prevent the risk of developing future heart issues.
What is cardiac rehabilitation?
After a MI, follow-up care is essential. Cardiac prevention and rehabilitation is a medical therapy program to improve heart health and prevent future heart attacks. Cardiac rehab involves exercise counseling, education on lifestyle changes, and providing emotional support. Lifestyle changes include establishing a healthy diet plan and quitting smoking. To reach this goal, a team of healthcare providers will offer comprehensive guidelines on improving the heart’s health. Patients are enrolled in the program for at least 3 months.
The heart team
A specialized team of healthcare providers will help a patient through cardiac rehabilitation. The team may include cardiologists, nurses, exercise specialists, registered dietitians (RD), physical therapists (PT), and mental health specialists.
Phases of rehabilitation
Cardiac rehab begins inpatient when a patient is still admitted to the hospital. The second phase is outpatient, where the patient attends various appointments with different doctors. The last step of the program is when the patient keeps up with the prevention and rehabilitation practices at home without needing to attend appointments.
What to expect
During cardiac prevention and rehab, the healthcare providers will start by evaluating the patient’s overall health. The healthcare team will decide on the most suitable exercises for the patient based on fitness capability and individual risk factors. Some low-impact exercises can include walking, cycling, jogging, and activities to strengthen the muscles. The team will also provide education on healthy eating habits and quitting smoking and other substances. Emotional support and stress management techniques will also be provided to the patient.
Benefits of rehabilitation
Cardiac prevention and rehab help a patient physically and emotionally by working on healthy eating, exercising, and quitting unhealthy habits. The program improves the overall quality of life, helps people to recover stronger, and reduces the risk of another heart attack. The comprehensive approach also helps individuals find ways to cope with stress and improve mental health.
Living life heart healthy
Once the patient has completed the program, no further appointments are needed. However, continuing to exercise, maintaining a healthy diet and weight, and cultivating healthy habits to keep the heart healthy are strongly encouraged. Incorporating these practices into everyday life will reduce the risk of another serious heart attack.