Cardiac rehabilitation is a way for people who have had a heart attack, angioplasty, bypass operation, valve replacement, heart transplant or other cardiac ailment to get going again. A team of physicians, nurses, exercise physiologists and dietitians help patients feel well again using a customized program, while carefully monitoring heart rate and rhythm, blood pressure, exercise tolerance and other medical conditions.
Cardiac rehabilitation has been shown to increase survival, improve exercise tolerance, quality of life and sense of well-being, and reduce the risk of future heart problems.
In general, there are three phases to cardiac rehabilitation:
Phase I - The First Step
The first phase of cardiac rehabilitation begins in the hospital after a heart attack or heart procedure. Under supervision, patients walk the halls or climb stairs as part of a light exercise program. Nurses and physical therapists also provide heart education on topics such as risk factors for heart disease, diet, medication, sexual activity, exercise and daily activities.
Phase II - Monitored Exercise
The next stage of cardiac rehabilitation is an outpatient program. This stage of rehabilitation begins about two to six weeks after hospital discharge, and sometimes later. A physician referral is needed to begin. The participant's heart condition is evaluated and an individualized exercise program is prescribed. Throughout the exercise session, heart rate and rhythm are monitored. The goal of this phase is to strengthen the heart, build physical endurance and strength, and work toward reducing cardiovascular risk factors. Phase II usually consists of three sessions per week for 8-12 weeks.
Phase III – Maintenance
The third phase is a continuation of the monitored exercise program. As a general rule, a person would advance into this phase after completing the Phase II program. Participants in this phase may include individuals who have had heart problems in the past but do not qualify for Phase II. The goal is to provide an ongoing exercise program and offer whatever support is necessary to make lifestyle changes. Resting heart rate, heart rhythm and blood pressure are measured prior to exercise.
A wellness program is also available for individuals that have risk factors for heart disease or would feel more comfortable exercising in a supervised setting. This program also is suitable for people who want to start an exercise program but are concerned about doing so "on their own." Participants exercise three to five times a week using aerobic and resistance exercise equipment.
All patients with coronary artery disease
, a recent heart attack or interventions, including coronary artery bypass surgery
, angioplasty, stenting, valve repair or replacement
, and heart transplant are encouraged to consider cardiac rehabilitation. Patients with heart disease often have other medical problems such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity or depression. These conditions need to be evaluated and monitored by trained staff because they can contribute to future heart problems.
To make an appointment with a Washington University heart or vascular specialist at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, call