WHAT ARE THE GOALS OF CARDIAC REHABILITATION?
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.
INCREASED DAILY PHYSICAL ACTIVITY
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.
FOLLOWING A HEART HEALTHY EATING PLAN
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.
IMPROVING YOUR EMOTIONAL HEALTH
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.