Cardiac rehab involves adopting heart-healthy lifestyle changes to address risk factors for cardiovascular disease. To help you adopt lifestyle changes, this program includes exercise training, education on heart-healthy living, and counseling to reduce stress and help you return to an active life. Cardiac rehab can improve your health and quality of life, reduce the need for medicines to treat heart or chest pain, decrease the chance you will go back to a hospital or emergency room for a heart problem, prevent future heart problems, and even help you live longer.
Cardiac rehab is provided in an outpatient clinic or in a hospital rehab center. The cardiac rehab team includes doctors, nurses, exercise specialists, physical and occupational therapists, dietitians or nutritionists, and mental health specialists. Sometimes a case manager will help track your care. Your cardiac rehab team will design a program to meet your needs. Before starting your program, the rehab team will take your medical history, do a physical exam, and perform tests. Possible tests include an electrocardiogram (EKG), cardiac imaging tests, and a treadmill or stationary bike exercise test. You also may have tests to measure your cholesterol and blood sugar levels. During cardiac rehab, you will learn to exercise safely and increase your physical activity. The length of time that you spend in cardiac rehab depends on your condition. Medicare and most insurance plans cover a standard cardiac rehab program that includes 36 supervised sessions over 12 weeks.
The heart-healthy lifestyle changes in cardiac rehab have few risks. Very rarely, physical activity during rehab can cause serious problems, such as injuries to your muscles and bones, or possibly life-threatening heart rhythm problems. If serious problems occur during the supervised sessions, the rehab team will immediately stop the physical activity, administer appropriate treatment, and contact your doctor.
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The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) leads or sponsors many studies aimed at preventing, diagnosing, and treating heart, lung, blood, and sleep disorders.