The heart is an amazingly complex organ. On one hand, it is an unbelievably tough muscle, yet on the other hand, heart disease is all too common. There are many types of heart conditions. Everything from an acute event like a heart attack, to a chronic illness such as congestive heart failure. Chronic heart illnesses will generally stay with patients for the rest of their lives, and treatments can vary from surgery to medication or other interventions. But health experts are clear in one regard to the heart: a good cardiac rehabilitation program can aid in all afflictions of heart disease.
What Is A Heart Attack?
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), a heart attack happens when the blood flow that brings essential oxygen to the heart is restricted or cut off. The arteries that supply blood-flow to the heart become blocked (either completely or partially) by a buildup of fat or cholesterol. The damage to the heart muscle that occurs is called a heart attack or myocardial infarction.
Treatments For Heart Attack
Treatments for a heart attack depend on the size of the area affected and can include clot-dissolving drugs, angioplasty (in which a catheter and a balloon are used to open the artery), and surgery. Doctors may use a small mesh tube called a stent to keep the artery open after treatment.
Rehabilitation For Heart Attack
According to the AHA, it often takes several weeks for the muscle to heal following a heart attack, and even after that period, the heart may be weaker because of the damage to the muscle. This is where cardiac rehabilitation comes in. Experts at the AHA say that signing up for cardiac rehab is one of the most important things patients can do and can reduce the risk of a second heart attack.
Cardiac rehabilitation includes three important components:
- A medically supervised exercise program designed to help patients ease into physical activity and come up with a long term physical fitness plan
- Education about lifestyle changes (this includes working with a dietician to come up with a heart-healthy diet)
- Counseling to relieve stress
What Is Congestive Heart Failure?
Unlike a heart attack, which can often take patients by surprise, Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) is a chronic condition. According to the Centers For Disease Control (CDC), CHF is one of the leading causes of hospitalization in patients over 65. The heart’s pumping ability is weakened, and the kidneys cause the body to retain water in the arms, legs, feet, lungs and other organs.
There are a number of conditions that contribute to CHF, including heart attack, coronary artery disease and other conditions that overwork the heart, like diabetes and high blood pressure.
Treatment For Congestive Heart Failure
Treatments for CHF generally include medications (including beta-blockers to reduce blood pressure) and lifestyle changes with an emphasis on diet, exercise and quitting smoking. Because of the chronic nature of the disease and the poor physical health of patients with CHF, a supervised rehabilitation program is extremely beneficial.
Because of fatigue and so-called “exercise intolerance,” many patients with CHF are not able to exercise in traditional ways. Facilities like Evergreen Health And Rehab have access to state of the art technology that allows even weak patients to engage in physical activity, including motorized bicycles that allow patients with CHF to exercise their upper and lower body.
Many rehab facilities are also having great success with gentle electrical stimulation to the arms, legs and body. Studies have shown that neuromuscular stimulation can improve muscle strength and help patients develop the ability to exercise. Evergreen Health and Rehab is proud to offer this promising treatment.
What Is Coronary Artery Disease?
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) is a condition where waxy plaque builds up inside the arteries and restricts blood flow to the heart. CAD can be an underlying cause of other heart problems, including both heart attack and congestive heart failure.
Treatment For Coronary Artery Disease
According to the NIH, treatments include:
- Bypass surgery (in which doctors take a segment of vein from another part of the body and attach it to the coronary artery to avoid the blockage)
- Medications including statins to lower cholesterol and medications to reduce blood pressure
- Lifestyle changes including diet and exercise
Rehabilitation (often after a surgery or intervention) can help patients make important lifestyle changes and gradually work up to cardiovascular exercise. Nearly everyone who has coronary heart disease can benefit from cardiac rehab, the NIH says.
Recovering From A Heart Condition: Rehab Is Key
Unlike some other illnesses, the link between heart problems and lifestyle is clear. Where the heart is concerned, better habits usually mean better health, and making positive changes can make a big difference in outcomes. In both chronic and acute cases, rehabilitation plays a big role in helping patients regain health by adding physical activity into their lives, improving nutrition and reducing stress.