Cardiac rehabilitation is a physician-supervised program for people who have either a congenital (present at birth) or acquired heart disease. Cardiac rehabilitation can often improve function, reduce symptoms, and improve the well-being of the patient.
Some of the conditions or procedures that may benefit from cardiac rehabilitation may include, but are not limited to, the following:
- heart failure
- angina pectoris
- myocardial infarction (heart attack)
- post-open heart surgery
- post-heart transplantation
- stent placement
- implanted pacemaker
- congenital heart disease
- arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms)
Cardiac rehabilitation programs can be conducted on an inpatient or outpatient basis. Many skilled professionals are part of the cardiac rehabilitation team, including any/all of the following:
- cardiologist/cardiovascular surgeon
- rehabilitation nurse
- physical therapist
- occupational therapist
- exercise physiologist
- social worker
- recreational therapist
- case manager
- vocational counselor
A cardiac rehabilitation program is designed to meet the needs of the individual patient, depending upon the specific heart problem or disease. Active involvement of the patient and family is vital to the success of the program.
The goal of cardiac rehabilitation is to help the patient return to the highest level of function and independence possible, while improving the overall quality of life - physically, emotionally, and socially. These goals are often met by:
- decreasing cardiac symptoms and complications.
- encouraging independence through self-management.
- reducing hospitalizations.
- stabilizing or reversing atherosclerosis (plaque buildup in the blood vessels).
- improving social, emotional, and vocational status.
In order to help reach these goals, cardiac rehabilitation programs may include the following:
- medication management to help reduce cardiac symptoms, complications, and hospitalizations
- exercise programs to help build fitness and improve endurance
- methods to improve independence and activities of daily living (ADLs)
- patient and family education and counseling
- smoking cessation
- nutritional counseling
- stress management and emotional support
- vocational counseling
Research done on cardiac rehabilitation programs has found them to benefit patients in the following ways:
- improve cardiac symptoms
- reduce blood cholesterol levels
- reduce cigarette smoking
- improve psychosocial well-being and reduce stress
- reduce death due to heart disease
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