Cardiac Rehabilitation

Heart Disease


The overall goals of cardiac rehab are to help you:

  • Recover after a heart attack or heart surgery.
  • Address risk factors that lead to coronary artery disease and other heart problems. These risk factors include high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, overweight or obesity, diabetes, smoking, lack of physical activity, and depression and other emotional health concerns.
  • Adopt healthy lifestyle changes.
  • Improve your health and quality of life.

The rehab team will work with you to reach these goals. You will do this through increased daily physical activity, following a heart healthy eating plan, quitting smoking, and improving your emotional health.


Physical activity lowers your risk for heart problems, such as a heart attack. It helps reduce LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and increase HDL (“good”) cholesterol. It also helps control your blood pressure and blood sugar level.

Physical activity will help you improve muscle strength, flexibility, and endurance. It can help you lose weight, which can lower your risk for heart disease. Physical activity also helps you cope better with stress, and it may boost your sense of well-being.

Exercise training as part of cardiac rehab may not be safe for all patients. For example, people who have very high blood pressure or severe heart disease may not be ready for exercise training. These patients can still benefit from other parts of the cardiac rehab program.


Improving your diet will help you control your cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar. It also may help you lose weight if you’re overweight or obese, which is an important step for lowering heart disease risk.

The dietitian on your cardiac rehab team will help you create a personal eating plan.


Quitting smoking will help you control cholesterol and blood pressure and lower your risk for heart problems. It also will make it easier for you to take part in physical activities.


Learning how to manage stress, relax, cope with problems, and build a social support network can improve your emotional as well as your physical health.

Some communities have support groups for people who have had a heart attack or heart surgery. They also may have walking groups or exercise classes.

Physical activity helps some people cope with stress. Other people reduce stress by listening to music or learning to focus on something calm or peaceful. Some people learn yoga, tai chi, or how to meditate.

There are many different types of “relaxation techniques” (ways to relax). By learning to relax and cope with stress, you can reduce your anxiety and lower your blood pressure, heart rate, and cholesterol.

This is true even if you don’t reduce other risk factors. Improving your emotional health can decrease your risk of death and future heart problems. It also can increase the chance that you will quit smoking and adopt other healthy behaviors.

Your rehab program also may offer individual or small group counseling to help you.

Heart Healthy Diet Tips

Heart Disease


Weight control and regular exercise are critical for keeping your heart in shape—but the food you eat may matter just as much. Experts say that eating a heart-healthy diet can reduce your risk of heart disease or stroke by 80%. With heart disease still the number one killer of both men and women in the United States, this is important—and heartening—news.

By understanding how your food choices impact the health of your heart, you may be able to prevent or manage heart disease and high blood pressure. Learn which foods and methods of cooking are healthiest for your heart, and you can take greater control over the quality and length of your life.

You can take steps to prevent heart disease

Heart disease may be the leading killer of men and women, but that doesn’t mean you can’t protect yourself. In addition to exercise, being careful about what you eat—and what you don’t eat—can help you lower cholesterol, control blood pressure and blood sugar levels, and maintain a healthy weight. If you’ve already been diagnosed with heart disease or have high cholesterol or blood pressure, a heart-smart diet can help you better manage these conditions, lowering your risk for heart attack.

Improving your diet is an important step toward preventing heart disease, but you may feel unsure where to begin. Take a look at the big picture: your overall eating patterns are more important than obsessing over individual foods. No single food can make you magically healthy, so your goal can be to incorporate a variety of healthy foods cooked in healthy ways into your diet, and make these habits your new lifestyle.

Eat More
Eat Less
Healthy fats: raw nuts, olive oil, fish oils, flax seeds, or avocados Trans fats from partially hydrogenated or deep-fried foods; saturated fats from whole-fat dairy or red meat
Nutrients: colorful fruits and vegetables—fresh or frozen, prepared without butter Packaged foods of any kind, especially those high in sodium
Fiber: cereals, breads, and pasta made from whole grains or legumes White or egg breads, granola-type cereals, refined pastas or rice
Omega 3 and protein: fish and shellfish, poultry Red meat, bacon, sausage, fried chicken
Calcium and protein: Egg whites, egg substitutes, skim or 1% milk, low-fat or nonfat cheeses or yogurt Egg yolks, whole or 2 percent milk, whole milk products like cheese or yogurt