Have you had a heart attack and are you trying to avoid another one? Healthy lifestyle changes can greatly improve your survival rate after a heart attack. One of the most significant lifestyle changes that can help prevent a second heart attack is regular exercise. In fact, a study published in the journal Circulation found that survivors who increased their activity levels were nearly twice as likely as inactive patients to still be alive seven years after the attack. Not only do regular workouts strengthen your heart and improve your labs, but they also ward off depression — a common culprit among heart patients. Cardiac rehab is an excellent starting point.
Exercise is Essential
Chances are that your doctor prescribed cardiac rehabilitation to begin your exercise and lifestyle changes — so that you can get on track and stay healthy. Just a couple of decades ago or more, heart attack patients were often advised to rest and avoid exercise. Now doctors know that exercise is critical to their chances of avoiding another cardiac event. Studies show that cardiac rehabilitation reduces the chance of a second heart attack by more than 25%. NOT exercising, however, can actually weaken your cardiovascular system and slow your recovery.
What is Cardiac Rehab
Cardiac rehabilitation is an exercise and education program designed to decrease your risk for further cardiac events. Candidates for cardiac rehab include people who have had a recent cardiac event, including valve replacement, bypass surgery, heart attack, heart transplant, or angioplasty/stents. Your physician can refer you to a good local cardiac rehab program.
Ease into Exercise with Cardiac Rehab
While you may have been advised to exercise, chances are your heart isn’t exactly used to rigorous exercise. That’s where cardiac rehab can really help. A good cardiac rehabilitation program will monitor your heart during exercise training to make sure it’s safe to exercise. During cardiac rehab, your therapist will start you off slow, and you will progress over time by increasing duration and intensity of your exercise (as long as you are without symptoms).
Benefits of Cardiac Rehabilitation
Most people get a lot more out of cardiac rehab than exercise. Typically, it’s a safe and supportive environment that helps you get back to your daily life — but in a healthier fashion. In addition to the regular physical activity, cardiac rehab can help you by:
- Educating you about your heart and your risk factors
- Counseling you on how to change unhealthy behaviors
- Providing strategies for stress management
- Demonstrating relaxation techniques,
- Guiding you on nutrition
- Assisting you with medications
The entire cardiac rehab program is intended to help you feel and live better than you did before your cardiac event.
A typical cardiac rehab session is about an hour, three days a week for 12 weeks or more. Depending on your level of health and your condition, you could be participating in cardiac rehabilitation for longer than three months. After you finish your cardiac rehab program, you’ll be encouraged to continue getting regular physical activity on your own — whether it’s in your own home, at a gym, or somewhere else.