Many studies have analyzed the results of cardiac rehab programs and one thing is certain: women who attend cardiac rehab programs have the best chance of correctly minimizing their risks, changing their lifestyle for the better and living longer.
Unfortunately, women are less likely than men to attend cardiac rehab programs, in part because they are less likely to be referred to these programs. Sometimes, even when they are referred to cardiac programs, women are less likely than men to attend or complete their programs. If you qualify for cardiac rehab, consider attending.
Cardiac rehabilitation, or cardiac rehab, is a program that is recommended for patients who have had a heart attack, angioplasty, stents, bypass or valve surery, and heart or heart/lung transplants. Sometimes it is also recommended for patients with congestive heart failure whose condition is controlled with medications. In these cases, your eligibility is regulated by your insurance provider based on your condition. The cardiac rehab program is designed to help you adjust and recover after you’ve been diagnosed and treated with these problems or have had these procedures, and will usually take place at a hospital or designated cardiac rehab treatment facility. Depending on the treatment you’ve had and your insurance policy, the duration of rehab can be anywhere from six weeks to six months. On average, however, the programs usually last about three months.
About Cardiac Rehab
Cardiac rehab will help you make the necessary lifestyle changes to recover and to minimize the risk of a recurrence. A team of nurses, doctors, dietitians, physical therapists and social workers will help you learn how to improve your health and feel better by decreasing your risk factors. Some of these controllable risk factors include:
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- Stress and Depression
- Lack of exercise
- High cholesterol diet
Risk factors that cannot be controlled include age and family history.
During Cardiac Rehab
Most cardiac rehab programs will address the controllable heart disease risk factors as well as help you become healthy after a cardiac event or surgery.
- Exercise: Cardiac rehab involves exercise. Before beginning your exercise regimen, you will take an exercise stress test in order for a medical professional to determine a program that meets your specific needs. At a cardiac rehab program, you will typically be supervised while exercising using a treadmill, bike, rowing machine, or walking/jogging track. The amount of time as well as type of exercise will be suggested and then monitored by a nurse or other medical professional. Your exercise program will progress and gradually become longer and more challening as you are deemed ready by the cardiac rehab staff. Your heart rate and rhythm will be monitored closely by the cardiac rehab staff with a noninvasive heart monitor.
- Diet: Cardiac rehab programs also focus on health and nutrition. You will meet with a nutritionist who will encourage you and help you to create a healthy eating plan that works for you. Your new lifestyle will include foods that are high in fiber and low in saturated fat, trans fat, and sodium. Eating healthy will allow you to address and minimize other cardiovascular risk factors, such as obesity and diabetes. Nutritional interventions will help you learn how to improve your heart health.
- Smoking: Some cardiac rehab programs have specific classes or groups to help you quit smoking. Being a smoker is one of the greatest cardiovascular risks; quitting smoking is one of the greatest steps in changing your lifestyle and recovering from cardiac surgery.
- Stress: The goal of cardiac rehab is to minimize factors that could contribute to a recurrence of a heart condition, and women experience stress at great levels. Support groups or therapy and counseling sessions may be available in order to help you adjust to life after treatment. This is especially important for women, who typically have more depression, stress, and problems coping with their condition. Meeting other people who have just encountered a similar life event will help you stay on track to creating a better lifestyle. You may also be taught stress and relaxation skills in order to minimize stress and recover.
- Obesity: Since being overweight is a significant cardiovascular risk (as well as a precursor to diabetes), your cardiac rehab program will address ways to minimize this risk. Your health professional will take your measurements and teach you how to monitor your weight. In addition, you will most likely be taught different strategies (specific to your condition) to lose weight and maintain a healthy body mass index (BMI).
After Cardiac Rehab
The ultimate goal of cardiac rehab is to prepare you to live with heart disease. After you complete cardiac rehab, you will have the skills you need to resume your daily activities and enjoy an active, productive life. Women may do better in programs in which there are group sessions and where there is an ability to talk with other patients. You may want to discuss the format of cardiac rehab with the facility that you are considering.
Nutrition and Prevention
Reference these links for information on how to prevent heart disease and how to live a healthy lifestyle.
- Lifestyle Changes
- Healthy Diet
- Reduce Stress
- Stop Smoking
- Healthy Cholesterol Levels
- Reduce Sodium
Date Last Modified: January 21, 2011
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