What is cardiac rehabilitation?
Cardiac rehabilitation is a program to help people who have heart disease. It is designed
to improve heart recovery, improve your ability to function, and prepare you for future
daily activities. It is overseen by a healthcare provider. People in this program
may have had a heart attack or heart surgery. Cardiac rehab can often help you get
better at your daily tasks. It may ease your symptoms and give you a sense of well-being.
Who can be helped by cardiac rehab?
You may be helped by cardiac rehab if you have certain heart conditions or if you
have had certain heart procedures. These include:
Stable angina. This is chest pain caused by disease in the arteries of your heart.
Heart attack (myocardial infarction). A heart attack happens when the heart muscle itself doesn’t get enough blood.
Heart failure. This means your heart can't pump blood as well as it should. Your body then does not
get enough blood.
Coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) surgery. This is surgery to fix the arteries of your heart.
Heart valve repair or replacement. This is surgery to fix or replace one of your heart valves. The valves keep blood
flowing in one direction in your heart.
Heart or heart-lung transplant. This is surgery to replace a damaged heart or heart and lungs.
Angioplasty with or without a stent. This is done to fix an artery in your heart. The cardiologist may put a small mesh
tube (stent) inside the artery to help keep it open.
Peripheral artery disease. This means the arteries that send blood to your arms and legs or other organs are
The cardiac rehab team
Your cardiac rehab program may start while you are in the hospital or soon after you
are discharged. Many different healthcare providers may help with your cardiac rehab.
Specialists. Specialists may include an expert in diagnosing and treating heart disease (cardiologist),
a heart surgeon (cardiovascular or cardiothoracic surgeon), and rehabilitation specialist
Primary care providers. These include a specialist in caring for adults (internist) and a doctor who cares
for all family members (family practice provider).
Cardiac nurses. These are nurses who have special training in caring for people with heart problems.
Registered dietitian or nutritionist. This is a person with special training in healthy eating and in diets for people with
heart and other health conditions.
Physical therapist. This is a specialist who is trained to help improve how you move to ease your pain
and disability as well as improve your ability to function.
Occupational therapist. This is a specialist who is trained to help improve how well you can do your daily
Psychologist, psychiatrist, or counselor. This person helps with mental health problems. He or she can help you cope with daily
stress, including long-term health problems.
Case manager or social worker. This person helps with planning your care. It may be in the hospital, in long-term
care, or at home.
Other healthcare providers may also be involved. It depends on your needs and your
The cardiac rehab program
Your cardiac rehab program is designed to meet your needs. It is overseen by a cardiac doctor
and a team of cardiac health providers. Your program may last from 6 weeks to more
than a year.
The goal of cardiac rehab is to help ease your symptoms and make your heart as healthy
as possible. Your program may include:
Exercise program. This makes you more fit, and helps your heart work better.
Classes to help you change your lifestyle and habits. For example, classes and support to help you quit smoking. Or you may take a nutrition
class to learn how to eat better.
Stress management. You will learn how to manage stress to lower your anxiety.
Counseling. This will help you learn about your specific condition and how to live with it.
Occupational therapy. This is to help you get ready to go back to work or to manage normal activities of