According to the American Heart Association, 20 percent of people ages 45 or older will have a second heart attack within five years of their first one. But completing a cardiac rehabilitation program can improve the likelihood you’ll stay healthy and lower the risk of a repeat event.
The goal of cardiac rehabilitation is to help people stay healthy after a heart attack or cardiovascular procedure by stabilizing, slowing or even reversing the process of cardiac disease. We want people to leave the program with a stronger heart.
A common misconception is that cardiac rehabilitation is just working out at a gym. In reality, it’s much more. Each participant works with a medical team including nurses, dietitians and exercise physiologists. Exercise is certainly part of the program, but there’s also education, support groups, learning about risk modification and finding strategies to better manage stress.
Although cardiac rehabilitation is a group program, each participant has a personalized routine. The benefit of being in a group setting is that people are able to interact and exchange information as well as support each other.
Cardiac rehabilitation is divided into three phases:
- Phase 1: The goal of this phase is to get patients well enough to go home after a heart attack or cardiac procedure. You’ll start slowly increasing your activity level and get information about your condition and lifestyle changes that you can work on at home to start lowering your risk of a second cardiac event.
- Phase 2: This phase begins 3-4 weeks after you return home. You’ll receive a personalized treatment plan and work closely with a medical team. You’ll also attend an exercise program three times a week for 12 weeks. Each session includes cardio, strength training and stretching. In addition, you’ll learn how to manage stress, improve your nutrition and lower your individual risk factors. Throughout this phase, your EKG, heart rate and blood pressure will be monitored.
- Phase 3: At this time, you’ll continue exercising on your own using the strategies you learned during phase 2.
Many people are surprised with their results after completing the program. Most find they’ve greatly improved the functioning of their heart. For some, this means needing fewer medications. For most, it means feeling stronger and having peace of mind they have the tools they need to stay heart healthy well into the future.