Surviving a heart attack (myocardial infarction) is a life-changing experience. It is also the beginning of some healthy changes in your life. To help you recover from your heart attack, your doctor will probably recommend a cardiac rehabilitation program. Cardiac rehab programs can help you live the healthiest life possible and get you back to your favorite activities.
What Are the Benefits of a Cardiac Rehabilitation Program?
As a heart attack survivor, you may be concerned about doing any activity that might strain your heart. This is a normal feeling, but with the right information you can safely live an active lifestyle. At a cardiac rehab program, you can learn how to be active in a safe way while developing heart-healthy habits that can stop or even reverse heart disease.
A cardiac rehab program can help you to:
Strengthen your heart and your body and improve your energy level
Lower your risk of complications, such as another heart attack, disability and death
Lower your blood pressure and cholesterol
Better manage stress
Function better in everyday life and return to work and your favorite activities
What Are the Elements of a Cardiac Rehabilitation Program?
When you enroll in a cardiac rehab program, you will discover many of the following elements that help you stop or even reverse heart disease by improving your risk factors.
Full assessment performed by medical professionals. This first step establishes the level of your heart health and your individual needs and limitations.
Personalized rehabilitation program developed by your care team. You will be involved in setting health goals and creating a recovery plan that is safe and effective for you. The length of your program will vary depending on your needs, but usually these programs range from six weeks to six months or longer.
Variety of counseling services that support your goals and teach you about heart disease and how to manage it. Counseling can help you cope with depression, anger and stress, which are common feelings during heart attack recovery. A dietician can help you create a heart-healthy eating plan that can help you lower your cholesterol and blood pressure; lose weight; and prevent, improve or manage diabetes. Counseling can also help you stop smoking.
Prescribed exercise program customized to your level of heart health and your goals. You may be afraid that exercise will put too much stress on your heart, but the right amount of exercise is actually good for your heart and your long-term recovery. Programs generally include aerobic and strength training.
Evaluation of your progress and readjustment of your goals and program as needed. Your cardiac rehab team will also keep your doctor informed of your progress.
How Can I Find a Cardiac Rehabilitation Program?
Hospitals, park districts, and community groups, such as local senior or civic centers, often offer cardiac rehab programs. Look for a program certified by the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation. Certification verifies that the cardiac rehab program follows established standards and guidelines for rehabilitation of people who have recently had a heart attack. You can also search the AACVPR online.
There are many benefits to cardiac rehab. Ask your doctor if a program is a good idea for you and for suggestions of where to go in your area.