If you’ve ever experienced heart failure, angioplasty, heart surgery or a cardiac event—such as heart attack or angina—you may have heard your doctor mention the term “cardiac rehabilitation”.
Cardiac rehabilitation is a medically supervised and individualized program that improves your heart health and reduces your risk of additional heart problems or complications. If your doctor refers you to a cardiac rehabilitation program, it’s important to follow the treatment plan that’s been created for you. Here’s a look at cardiac rehabilitation, what to expect and how it benefits you.
WHAT CAN I EXPECT?
Your cardiac rehabilitation experience may include coordination between many members of your healthcare team: doctors, nurses, fitness coaches, dietitians, physical and occupational therapists, care managers or behavioral/mental health counselors. Rehabilitation programs for cardiovascular health typically focus on three key areas:
- Physical Fitness: Exercise is critical to your cardiovascular health, and proper exercise counseling can help improve your heart’s function.
- Lifestyle and Behavioral Health: Cardiac rehabilitation involves making healthy lifestyle choices, including smoking cessation, learning how to manage your risk factors, developing healthy nutritional habits and adhering to your medications.
- Mental Health: Stress is bad for the heart. You may work with a mental health therapist to develop coping mechanisms that help you reduce the effects of stress on your physical health.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF CARDIAC REHABILITATION?
Studies show cardiac rehabilitation results in a 25 percent reduction in mortality and a 31 percent decline in hospital readmissions. Other benefits include cost savings and improved overall heart health.
Approximately one out of every six healthcare dollars is spent on cardiovascular disease, and according to the Department of Health and Human Services, patients who successfully complete a cardiac rehabilitation program save an average of $4,950 to $9,200 per year of life saved.
Improved Health Outcomes
Cardiac rehabilitation helps you make healthier diet choices, lose weight, feel better, return to work and other activities quicker, and lower your risk of complications and future cardiac events. Other benefits include:
- Reduced need for emergency room visits and hospital stays for heart problems
- Lowered blood pressure
- Decreased risk of fatal heart attack
- Improved cholesterol levels
- Higher quality of life
- Reduced shortness of breath and fatigue
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT CARDIAC REHABILITATION
Q: Do I need a referral to go through a cardiac rehabilitation program?
A: Yes, and it’s important to follow up on the referral. Cardiac rehabilitation programs are often underutilized because many patients don’t act on the referral their doctor gave them.
Q: How long will I participate in cardiac rehabilitation?
A: Programs generally last about three months, but because each patient is unique, so is his or her program. Your doctor and the rest of your care team can help decide what length of program is right for you. It’s also important to understand that cardiac rehabilitation is a step to a healthier lifestyle, so you will need to continue what you learned even after you complete the program.
Q: Is cardiac rehabilitation covered by insurance?
A: This depends on the coverage you have, but Medicare and most other insurances will cover cardiac rehabilitation for recommended conditions including:
- Heart attack
- Coronary artery disease or heart failure
- Heart procedure or surgery
Talk to your insurance provider and medical team about your eligibility for cardiac rehabilitation and what costs you can expect.
Q: How can I manage work and other responsibilities with my cardiac rehabilitation?
A: You need a healthy heart in order to perform well at work and in your other duties, so cardiac rehabilitation is extremely important. Work with your medical team, family and employer to arrange a schedule that works for everybody and don’t be afraid to seek support when necessary.
If you’ve experienced a cardiac event or other heart condition, make an appointment with your doctor. He or she can help you determine a treatment plan that’s best for you and answer any questions you may have about cardiac rehabilitation.
Our providers are board certified in general cardiology and interventional cardiology. We have over 30 providers with decades of experience in heart-related care. As a part of Utah’s largest independent physician group, we have a network of physicians who are able to care for all cardiology needs.