By Dr. Gordon Blackburn, Preventive Cardiology and Rehabilitation Program
Cardiac rehabilitation (rehab) is a structured program of education and activity guided toward lifestyle modification, increasing functional capabilities and peer support.
Cardiac rehab is known to benefit those with:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Post cardiac event, such as myocardial infarction (heart attack)
- Congestive heart failure
- Post procedure, such as angioplasty or heart surgery
- Arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythm) or implantable devices (pacemaker or defibrillator)
A cardiac rehab program generally includes:
- Exercise program- varies from a structured, monitored program to a more independent, less monitored program
- Diet instruction - individual counseling to group classes
- Educational classes on lifestyle changes and disease management
- Emotional support - individual, group and peer support
Cardiac rehabilitation programs should be designed to meet the patient's specific needs. The goals are to:
- increase functional capacity (the ability to carry out activities)
- reduce risk factors
- improve quality of life
- improve outlook and emotional stability
- increase knowledge about disease and increase self-management
How do you pick a cardiac rehabilitation program?
The best cardiac rehabilitation programs are multidisciplinary, with doctors, nurses, exercise physiologists, psychologists and dietitians either on the premises or in direct contact with the program staff. A good program will study each patient's needs and design a program just for him or her.
The Cleveland Clinic Heart and Vascular Institute encourages patients and family members to consider twelve points when choosing a rehab program:
- Do you need a doctor's referral to enter the program?
Because cardiac rehab is a form of medical treatment, a doctor's referral should be required.
- Will your doctor receive regular reports?
The program should report the patient's progress to the referring doctor.
- Is a doctor-supervised stress test required before you enter the program?
This is important to identify any risks to the patient in following an exercise program and to design the activity guidelines.
- Are educational and counseling services available for you and your family?
Coronary artery disease affects the whole family. Education and counseling can be of great support to all involved.
- Will an individualized treatment plan be developed for you?
The staff should identify your risks and tailor a program to your needs.
- Is doctor supervision available during your exercise session?
A doctor must be in the immediate area or have direct contact with staff. Find out who supervises your exercise sessions.
- Are you informed of the risks and benefits of the program?
- Is the staff specially trained and/or certified in the field of cardiac rehabilitation?
Look who is setting up your program. Are they certified in their specialty area?
- Is the program certified by the American Association of Cardiovascular & Pulmonary Rehabilitation?
- Are all staff currently certified in CPR?
There are standard certifications in this field. At least, everyone in the program should be certified in basic cardiac life support. At least one person with advanced cardiac life support certification should be present at each session.
- Are emergency procedures available for your review?
The program should have an emergency policy that can be discussed with you.
- Are emergency equipment and supplies readily available?
- Are the fees and insurance coverage discussed with you?
Cardiac Rehabilitation Programs
Take these questions with you when you seek out a cardiac rehabilitation program.
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