What is cardiac rehabilitation?
A cardiac rehabilitation program is designed to meet your needs.
Cardiac rehabilitation is a program to help people who have heart disease. It is overseen
by a health care provider. People in this program may have had a heart attack or heart
surgery. Cardiac rehabilitation 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 rehabilitation?
You may be helped by cardiac rehabilitation 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 itself doesn’t get enough blood.
Heart failure. This means your heart cannot 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 surgeon may put a small mesh tube
(stent) inside the artery.
Peripheral artery disease. This means the arteries that send blood to your arms and legs are narrowed.
The cardiac rehabilitation team
Your cardiac rehabilitation program may begin while you are in the hospital or soon
after you are discharged. Many different health care providers may help with your cardiac
rehabilitation. They include:
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 in order to ease
your pain and disability.
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 health care providers may also be involved. It depends on your needs and your
The cardiac rehabilitation program
Your cardiac rehabilitation 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 rehabilitation 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, you may take a smoking cessation class 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.