Sometimes your heart needs a little extra help. That’s especially true if you’re living with heart failure or recovering from a heart attack or heart surgery. A cardiac rehabilitation program may be just what you need.
“Cardiac rehabilitation, also called cardiac rehab, is a medically supervised exercise program that helps heart patients quickly return to an active lifestyle and reduces the chance of developing further heart problems,” says Walter Parham, M.D., FACC, an interventional cardiologist at Good Samaritan Regional Health Center.
“Patients receive care from a team of healthcare professionals that, depending on your situation, may include doctors, nurses, exercise specialists, physical therapists, and dietitians.”
Whatever your heart problem—from angina to a heart transplant, the goal is to improve your health and reduce the risk of future heart problems, including heart attack and heart failure.
“Conditioning the heart is like building up muscles; the heart improves with use just as weight lifting builds muscle tone,” adds Naeem Khan, M.D., FACC, Medical Director of Cardiac Rehabilitation at St. Mary’s Hospital. “Regular physical activity helps your heart and body get stronger, it improves your energy level and lifts your spirits.”
Your doctor may refer you to a cardiac rehabilitation program, and if not, you can ask the doctor or your nurse for a recommendation. Cardiac rehab is often covered by private insurance health plans and Medicare for two or three months following your diagnosis of a heart attack or heart failure.
The cardiac rehabilitation programs at St. Mary’s Hospital and Good Samaritan Regional Health Center are individualized; however, all patients will receive the following:
- Taking stock. A medical evaluation will be performed to assess your needs and limitations. The medical staff uses this information to tailor a rehabilitation program that is right for you.
- Careful monitoring. Exercise training often starts in a group setting, where your heart rate and blood pressure are monitored during physical activity. You will learn how to assess your heart rate and the intensity level of your activity. You’ll work up to more intense aerobic activity, such as exercising on a treadmill or riding a stationary bike over the course of the rehab program.
- Lifestyle changes outlined. Counseling and education help you understand your condition and how to manage it. You may work with a dietitian to create a healthy eating plan. If you smoke, you may get counseling on how to stop. Counseling may also help you cope with depression, anger, and stress during your recovery.
- Getting you back in the game. Support and training will be offered to help you return to work, or your normal activities, and help you learn to manage your heart condition.
Research shows that cardiac rehabilitation programs help heart patients live longer and feel better. They also reduce the risk of future heart attacks, lead to healthier cholesterol and blood pressure levels, and reduce episodes of chest pain through weight loss, healthy eating, and smoking cessation. Call your doctor to find out if cardiac rehabilitation is right for you. For cardiac rehab at St. Mary’s Hospital call 618-436-8868 or for Good Samaritan Regional Health Center in Mt. Vernon call 618-899-1760.