Cardiac rehabilitation is more than just walking on a treadmill. It also helps heart patients make healthy lifestyle changes and improve their heart health.
Cardiac rehab is a supervised program that uses exercise, education and support to help people recover from a heart attack, heart surgery or other heart problems. Cardiac rehab programs are medically supervised and individually designed based on a person’s needs and overall health.
A rehab program helps people:
- Reduce the risk of dying of heart disease
- Reduce cardiac risk factors, such as increased weight, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking
- Control symptoms of heart disease
- Be more active
- Improve quality of life
- Return to usual activities, including work
Typically, insurance covers up to 36 cardiac rehab sessions, which can be as often as two to three times per week, according to Kelli Mallatt, a registered respiratory therapist and supervisor of cardiac rehab at Mercy Hospital Carthage on the McCune-Brooks Campus. The goal is to finish the program with a level of exercise and education that improves overall health.
“We’re here to help the heart recover,” she said. “Not only are we recovering the heart, but are helping patients increase their physical activity and health.”
The program begins with an assessment and includes monitoring to ensure the heart is performing as expected.
“The first several sessions we get a feel for where patients are in their heart recovery,” Mallatt said. “We have some patients who’ve never exercised, We can teach them how to exercise correctly and increase their endurance and energy.”
Some patients are fearful that any physical activity during rehab will damage their heart.
“They don’t want to do anything after a heart attack or a heart procedure as anxiety can be high,” she said. “We let them know we’re watching them and keeping them safe to keep anxiety at a low level.”
The American Heart Association recommends that cardiac rehab patients have 30 to 45 minutes of exercise or physical activity three to five days a week, according to Mallatt. How well patients progress on each piece of exercise equipment determines when the program ends.
“My goal by the time they finish is they can do 40 to 45 minutes of exercise,” she said. “The better shape they are in the faster they make progress.”
Also on the Mercy Carthage rehab team is Emily Shockley, RN.
The American Heart Association suggests several steps to get started:
- Ask your doctor if you are eligible for cardiac rehab
- If you are eligible, register for a program
- In consultation with your medical team, set heart-health goals and create a cardiac rehab plan
- Take an active role in your care to achieve your goals
- Keep taking your medicines correctly
- Call 911 if you experience new or worsening symptoms