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 What is cardiac rehabilitation?
Cardiac rehabilitation (cardiac rehab) is a professionally supervised program to help people recover from heart attacks, heart surgery and percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) procedures such as stenting and angioplasty. Cardiac rehab programs usually provide education and counseling services to help heart patients increase physical fitness, reduce cardiac symptoms, improve health and reduce the risk of future heart problems, including heart attack.

Cardiac Rehab Program- What is it?
The number of people dying everyday due to heart attacks are increasing day by day. Overweight (Obesity) and unhealthy lifestyle etc. are some of the major causes for this issue. Cardiac rehabilitation is a specially designed program to aid people who suffer from issues that affect the well-being of people. The program will be able to give professional supervision to people in recovering from heart attacks, risks of heart surgery, risks of PCI procedures like angioplasty and stenting. The program intends to provide services such as education, counseling etc. to help the heart patients in:

  • Increasing the physical fitness
  • Curtailing the cardiac symptoms
  • Reducing the risk of future heart issues
  • Improving the overall health and well being

Who can be a candidate for cardiac rehab program?
There are many people who suffer from various heart conditions. All of them, despite their age differences can be a good candidate for cardiac rehab program. One can be a candidate for cardiac rehab program if she/he:

  • Has had a heart attack
  • Has any of these heart conditions such as- Heart failure, Coronary Artery Disease, Angina etc.
  • Had a heart surgery or a heart procedure like- CABG, PCI, Coronary Angioplasty, Valve replacement, Stenting, ICD or Pacemaker etc.

The services available in a Cardiac Rehab Program:

The program involves various services including:

  • A medical assessment to analyse the cardiac requirements and restraints. The final result will be used to adapt a rehabilitation program that can meet the requirements of the patient.
  • A well-designed physical activity program to meet the requirements. The training will be conducted in a group setting. Blood sugar and heart rate will be frequently monitored during the physical activity. The program will be carried out under the supervision of a cardiologist, with the help of a physical therapist. The patient will be trained to check the heart rate and activity level within a few days. Gradually, the patient will be instructed to start more intense aerobic activities.
  • An exercise program that can be carried out under personal supervision.
  • Program for stress management.
  • Education and counseling to help the patient in understanding and managing the condition. The dietician will design a healthy diet plan for the patient. Counseling helps the person to cope with mental and psychological issues during the recovery period.
  • Gives support and training during the recovery period, and helps in making the patients learn about managing heart condition.
  • Educating and making the family members aware of the patient’s condition to cope with it.
  • Helps in developing a safe home exercise program
  • Good support and care from the entire team and staff to give a ‘home away from home’ experience to the patient.

The duration of a cardiac rehab program:
The main aim of the rehabilitation program is to meet the requirements of the patient. The program may last for six weeks, six months or more than that. It may depend upon the patient’s condition. There are programs that may last for only three months or can last for 1 year.
Benefits of a supervised cardiac rehabilitation program:

  • Heart rate management can be done according to the age of each individual.
  • ECG and telemetry monitoring is carried out and issues like extra beats and rhythm problems can be detected.
  • The heart and body can be made stronger with frequent physical activities. It also helps in improving the energy levels. The chances of future heart problems such as heart attacks can be reduced.
  • Right directions received from the counseling and education will help a patient in following a healthy diet, losing weight, quitting smoking, managing stress etc. Good understanding about the disease and management will also be an advantage.
  • Advice and close supervision from the health care professionals will help in improving the Health and reducing the future health risks.
  • Professional guidance during the cardiac rehab program helps individual to return to work faster.
  • Provides knowledge about physical activities.
  • Get right direction regarding correct usage of prescribed medications.
  • The long term success of any secondary prevention program is directly related to patient compliance. Evidence suggests that patients benefit from improving lipid profile by diet , exercise and drug therapy.
  • The risk for developing heart attacks and strokes will be reduced by quitting the smoking habit.

Different stages of Cardiac Rehabilitation:
A Cardiac Rehab Program may go through different stages, such as:
Stage 1– In the Hospital- The patient will be in the hospital during the first stage of cardiac rehabilitation. It is the period right after the patient has been identified with heart disease. Stage 1 ends when the patient is discharged from the hospital.
Stage 2– After leaving the Hospital- During this phase, the patient is considered to be an outpatient. The patient may need to visit the clinic for a few times in a week. Exercises will be suggested during this period which will be monitored by cardiac rehabilitation specialists. While the patient exercises, the heart will be monitored with the help of ECG monitor. Patients recovering from surgeries and heart diseases are involved in this stage.
Stage 3– Changes in the lifestyle- It is considered to be a maintenance stage. Long-term exercise at home or at a gym will be suggested during this period. Stage three does not require close monitoring. The patient will be less monitored during this period and some measure of education and counseling will be provided. The patients will receive cardiac rehabilitation guidance during this stage. This is to aid them in proper recovery. It also helps in increasing quality of life, functional capacity,  and reducing the risk factors. During this stage, the patient will be able to experience a sense of wee-being and becomes optimistic.

Exercise Training in Cardiac Rehab
Exercise training is a vital part of cardiac rehabilitation guidelines. A diseased heart will not be able to handle high level of exercise right away. An appropriate level of activity can be built slowly. In the case of extremely sick people, simply sitting and getting out of bed is the only suggested activity during the first stage. When the patients become comfortable with this, the next process is to walk a short distance around the room. Gradually, the walking distance will be extended. It turns to jogs and runs when the patient gains more strength. After this, strength training will be introduced to the patient.
The heart will be carefully monitored during every exercise training. It is done to ensure that the patient is not having any heart trouble meanwhile. In some cases, the exercise may be discouraged for a short time to allow the heart for recovery. If the heart is functioning normally, the level of exercise will be increased till the patient becomes capable of doing the exercise without a doctor’s or nurse’s supervision.
If one wishes to keep his/her heart healthy, a knowledge in different stages of cardiac rehabilitation is essential. It is better to seek help from a cardiac rehabilitation unit, if one is having heart disease.

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