What to Expect: Cardiac Rehabilitation

Cardiologists and family physicians often recommend cardiac rehabilitation programs to their patients who have undergone heart surgery, had a heart attack, or who have a heart condition, such as congestive heart failure or coronary artery disease. Rehabilitation can occur in both in-patient and outpatient settings. Some patients may even begin their rehab in-patient and then continue their therapy as an outpatient after recovery. These programs are helpful in enhancing cardiac and overall health by educating patients about ways to lower their risk of future heart problems. Patients will learn how to manage their condition day to day and often receive heart healthy diets and personally designed exercise programs.

It is important to research both in-patient and outpatient rehab programs to find the best fit for you and your health needs. Ask about the medical team’s level of expertise with various cardiac diagnoses and their staff availability, including patient to professional staff ratio. The medical team may consist of cardiologists, nurse practitioners, physical, occupational and speech therapists, dieticians, and mental health professionals. The cardiac rehab program usually begins with a recommendation from your cardiologist indicating that specific services are needed in your recovery. A medical evaluation should  occur during your intake period where your physical strengths, limitations and goals are reviewed. After the initial evaluation, a care plan will be developed which may involve physical and/or occupational therapy, and activities which may focus on increasing overall endurance.

For those patients receiving in-patient rehab, it is important to have daily weight checks and vital sign readings. Lung function assessments, including pulse ox monitoring, should also be done every day. Another important component of any cardiac rehab program is lifestyle education. You should receive advice about healthy food choices to help reduce fat, sodium and cholesterol from your diet. A thorough education program should also include a discussion about how to manage your disease or condition at home and how to recognize warning signs that may indicate a flair up. It will also be helpful to monitor any changes in how your clothes fit, assess your overall energy level, and your daily ability to perform and enjoy routine tasks and activities.

Cardiac rehabilitation can help you make the necessary changes in your diet and begin a physician-approved exercise program. Lifestyle changes that begin in rehab and then translate to your everyday life can reduce recurrences of future cardiac issues, help control your blood pressure, and start you on a healthier approach to managing your overall health.

For more information on locating a cardiac rehabilitation program, call Abramson Care Advisors, free, at 215-371-3400. A senior care expert is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to answer your questions.