Today we’re going to talk about something that doesn’t get nearly the amount of attention that it should. It’s a treatment that reduces heart risk factors in heart attack survivors by way over 50%, and has a proven track record in preventing second heart attacks. We’re talking about cardiac rehabilitation.
What is cardiac rehabilitation?
The American Heart Association defines cardiac rehab as a “medically supervised program designed to improve your cardiovascular health if you have experienced heart attack, heart failure, angioplasty or heart surgery.” That’s a great definition, but it’s a bit general. So let’s break it down.
There are 3 basic components to cardiac rehab:
Fitness training and counseling.
Time was when heart attack victims were told to take it easy and not exercise. Today things have changed, and drastically. While no one’s going to be telling a heart attack victim to pump iron the next day, doctors do encourage their patients to start walking around as soon as it’s possible.
In cardiac rehab, fitness experts work together with the attending physician to develop a fitness regiment tailor-made to the patient’s needs. Counseling and support help the patient to get accustomed to exercising and incorporate it into their everyday lives.
Lifestyle changes for cardiac rehab
Exercise isn’t the only thing heart attack victims need to get accustomed to. If a person had a heart attack, that means that there are cardiac risk factors in their lives. Are they smoking? The rehab team will work on helping them quit. Is the patient significantly overweight or obese? The team will work on developing a weight-loss plan. Does the patient eat a lot of fatty, processed or sugary foods? The team will work on nutrition and making healthier choices.
A major cardiac risk factor is stress. We all have it, of course. Life is full of stressors, some minor, some major and some absolutely volcanic. The difference is how each one of us manages their stress.
When someone suffers a heart attack, stress takes on a whole new meaning. While the patient might have been able to somehow-someway go through life with chronic stress burnout, that has to stop when a cardiac event occurs. The rehab team will work with the patient and help them learn the skills and tools they need to manage stress smoothly and effectively.
So who needs cardiac rehab?
According to the research? Anyone who has had a cardiac event and doesn’t have other health complications that make it unsafe. The numbers speak for themselves:
Among heart attack survivors, those who went through with cardiac rehab had a 53% less chance of dying of any cause. They had a 57% less chance of dying from a second heart attack.
Do you know someone who’s suffered a heart attack? If you do, give them this blog post or suggest that they talk to their primary physician or cardiologist about signing up. You won’t regret it.
(Neither will they.)