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Feb 13, 2012

What is Cardiac Rehabilitation? - Cardiac Rehabilitation Awareness Week

Cardiac patients benefit greatly from follow-up care with a personal health team.

For decades, it has been well known that participating in cardiac rehabilitation improves cardiovascular risk factor control, increases endurance and strength, and enhances quality of life. Over the past several years it has become obvious that cardiac rehabilitation also helps people live longer. People who attend cardiac rehab after having a coronary artery stent have a much lower risk of death 5 years after the procedure, compared to those who do not participate.

Cardiac rehabilitation is not only an individualized exercise and lifestyle modification program, but also provides a support system to help patients take control of their risk factors, monitor their progress, communicate with their doctors, and adopt lifelong healthy behaviors. Services are provided by a team of nurses, exercise specialists, dieticians and other healthcare professionals, led by a physician.  Core components of cardiac rehabilitation stress communication with a patient’s regular physicians about progress during the program, so that issues interfering with optimal control of risk factors can be addressed.  In general, people who participate in cardiac rehabilitation improve their endurance by 25–50%, have better control of risk factors such as tobacco use, high cholesterol, and eating habits, and are less depressed.

Unfortunately, less than a third of the people who are eligible to attend cardiac rehab actually enroll in programs, with women and older patients least likely to participate. Although there are many reasons for this, the main one is lack of awareness about its benefits among both patients and providers.

The American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation and the American College of Cardiology are both working to fix this problem. Raising awareness about the power of cardiac rehabilitation to improve health is an important step toward increasing participation in this life-saving treatment.

There are now several free tools available for physicians and hospitals to use to help people learn about the benefits of cardiac rehabilitation and how to enroll:


Tom Weiser is CardioSmart

Tom has had two heart attacks triggered by familial hypercholesterolemia (FH). He has become a vocal and educated advocate for his disease and a positive example for his four children.

Don's Story: Cardiac Rehab

Don Fick suffered a heart attack while on vacation with his family. After his heart attack, Don made cardiac rehab a priority in his recovery.

Bradley Smith is CardioSmart

After a heart attack, Bradley Smith dramatically improved his heart health and reduced his risk for a second heart attack by attending cardiac rehab, changing his diet and taking his medications faithfully.

Despite Lifesaving Benefits, Fewer Women Than Men Get Cardiac Rehab

Women with coronary artery disease can improve their heart health and reduce their risk of dying from heart disease by attending cardiac rehabilitation.

Cardiac Rehabilitation Basics

Cardiac rehabilitation is a combination of regular exercise, healthy eating, stress reduction, and medical therapy. In addition, those who smoke receive guidance to help them quit for good.