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Jan 10, 2016

Cardiac Rehab is Lifesaving for Heart Patients

Exercise-based rehab programs reduce risk for heart-related death by 26%.

A recent study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology analyzed a large body of evidence related to cardiac rehabilitation. Currently, cardiac rehab is recognized by health organizations as an important part of treatment for patients with heart disease. Cardiac rehab is a comprehensive program that includes exercise training, education on lifestyle choices, risk factor modification and even mental health. While most heart patients can benefit greatly from cardiac rehab, not all take advantage of this critical program.

To explore the many benefits of cardiac rehab, researchers reviewed existing evidence on the topic. A total of 63 clinical trials were included in the analysis, all of which compared outcomes in patients that did and did not participate in cardiac rehab programs. Study participants included heart attack patients, individuals diagnosed with heart disease or patients that underwent heart procedures to restore blood flow to the heart.

Among nearly 14,500 patients followed for a minimum of six months, researchers found that cardiac rehab reduced risk for heart-related death by 26%. Patients attending cardiac rehab were also 18% less likely to be admitted to the hospital in the year following their heart event or procedure. And two-thirds of studies found that cardiac rehab was associated with better quality of life.

Findings reaffirm the value of cardiac rehab and support current guidelines recommending rehab programs for heart patients. Not only does cardiac rehab improve outcomes, it can improve quality of life for patients with heart disease.

The problem is that not all patients take advantage of cardiac rehab after a heart event, procedure or heart disease diagnosis. With additional education, experts hope to increase referrals to cardiac rehab and increase the number of heart patients attending rehab programs. Together, experts hope these efforts will increase utilization of cardiac rehab and help heart patients live longer, healthier lives.

Read the full article in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Questions for You to Consider

  • Who is eligible to participate in a cardiac rehabilitation program?

  • Medicare and most private insurers cover cardiac rehabilitation generally for 24–36 sessions over a 3– to 6–month period for people who have had recent heart attacks; angina; bypass or valve surgery; coronary angioplasty or stents; or heart transplants. However, some insurance companies also recognize the benefits of cardiac rehabilitation to help people with heart failure and cover participation for people with heart failure and other diagnoses.
  • Who can benefit from cardiac rehabilitation?
  • Cardiac rehabilitation is recommended for many different types of heart patients, including those with heart disease, heart failure, and a history of heart attack. Cardiac rehab is also beneficial for patients after heart procedures like open heart surgery and percutaneous coronary intervention. Through a combination of exercise, education and support, cardiac rehab can help patients improve their health and prevent future health problems.
  • What is cardiac rehabilitation?
  • Cardiac rehabilitation (cardiac rehab) is a program designed to help patients recover from a heart event and build the foundation for a healthier future. Cardiac rehab typically involves an individualized exercise and lifestyle modification program, and provides a support system to help patients take control of risk factors, monitor progress, communicate with doctors, and adopt lifelong healthy behaviors. Services are provided by a team of nurses, exercise specialists, dieticians and other health care professionals led by a physician.  Cardiac rehab has been shown to improve both outcomes and better quality of life for patients after a heart event.

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