Heart-healthy Recipes. Resistance training exercises. Get a walking partner. Thirty minutes of aerobic exercise per week. These recommendations constantly flash before our eyes persuading us to change our sedentary lifestyle and turn onto a path of health. Despite the fact that cardiovascular disease is one of the leading causes of death in the United States, many of us continue to ignore this advice. But once a cardiac event occurs, we finally get the message. Well, some people do. But by this point, there is often irreparable damage. In most cases, it’s time for cardiac rehab to commence.
Many people with cardiovascular disease are eligible for rehab with a doctor’s referral, but not everyone knows it’s available or what the benefits are.
Cardiac rehabilitation (CR) helps to transition patients into a healthy lifestyle. A team of doctors, therapists, and pharmacists create a personalized program based on a patient’s health profile. They also educate patients about their particular disease and teach them about heart-healthy nutrition. Therapists design an exercise program and train the patient over a period of six to twelve weeks.
Therapists work with patients as both coaches and cheerleaders, helping patients to achieve their individual goals and giving them the tools they need to make educated decisions regarding their health.
Perhaps, equally important, rehab allows recovery to occur in a safe environment. Patients transition often from a scary health situation back to real life. They learn from professionals both their health limitations as well as their abilities. This enables a patient to leave rehab feeling confident and less fearful of another life-threatening situation.
But cardiac rehab is not always easy. Some people feel sore from recent procedures. Others are so overweight and out of shape, exercise is very challenging. However, when patients look around the rehab facility, it’s comforting and encouraging to see others working hard towards similar goals.
While damage cannot always be fixed, prevention of future cardiac events is an important goal in cardiac rehabilitation. In fact, statistics show that cardiac rehabilitation not only improves one’s quality of life, it also reduces hospital readmissions by 30% and decreases overall cardiac mortality by 28%. Unfortunately, due to ignorance, language barriers, busy work schedules, and distance from rehab facilities, many eligible individuals do not take part in rehab. A 2016 report estimated that only 19- 34% of patients participate in a CR program.
However, with more participation, many more lives will be saved from cardiovascular disease and premature death.