Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

What are the components of cardiac rehab?

        Health | Heart

A cardiac rehab program typically involves these four features.

  • Medicine helps your heart work better.
  • Exercise helps you feel better.
  • Lifestyle changes help reduce your risk.
  • Mental health support helps you cope with stress.

Medicines Help Your Heart Work Better

Taking the heart medicines that your doctor recommends is an important part of helping your heart work better. Your medicines help heal your damaged heart. They may also help prevent you from having a heart attack. In a cardiac rehab program, you'll get information to help you understand why you need to take your medicines. You'll also learn how and when to take them effectively.

Exercise Helps You Feel Better

A structured program of regular physical activity can help you feel better. It will be designed just for you. People who have heart disease are often afraid to exercise. This is especially true if they've recently had a heart attack. But studies have found that exercise can help improve heart function in almost everyone, if it's done safely.

In cardiac rehab, experts help you with your exercise plan. Early in the program, you may need to exercise under the watchful eyes of these experts rather than on your own. The staff will monitor your condition carefully while you exercise. To make sure the exercise is safe for you, they will check your heart rate, heart rhythm, and blood pressure throughout your workout.

Problems caused by cardiac rehab exercise are rare. If there is a problem, the staff of a cardiac rehab program is trained to handle emergencies. Later, once you've improved your fitness level, you will probably be able to continue an exercise program on your own without monitoring. Most cardiac rehab centers have a maintenance program. This program allows you to continue exercising at the same facility. You do so on your own schedule. Program staff provide only limited monitoring.

Lifestyle Changes Help Reduce Your Risk

Each day, you make choices about what you eat and how much you exercise. You choose whether to smoke or drink alcohol. These choices play an important role in your risk for heart attack and death from heart disease. Most cardiac rehab programs can help you learn why and how you can make changes in the way you live to reduce your risk. These changes may include improving your eating habits and losing weight. They may also include being more active and giving up tobacco.

Mental Health Support Helps You Cope With Stress

Your cardiac rehab team can help you cope with having a heart condition. They help you deal with the stress that comes with making changes to your lifestyle. Studies show that 15% to 25% of people who have had a heart attack develop depression. Individual and group support are often part of cardiac rehab. They can help you identify and overcome your depression. They also help you to develop healthier ways to cope with stress. And, you'll learn to share your feelings with others who've had a similar experience.

How Can I Select a Cardiac Rehab Program?

Your doctor will be able to suggest a cardiac rehabilitation program. Or he or she may develop an individual program that you can do on your own. To help decide whether a structured rehab program is right for you, ask these questions about it.

  • Is the program offered at times that I can easily attend?
  • Can I get to the program with relative ease? Is public transportation or parking available?
  • Is this an existing group program, or is it an individual program designed for me? Does this suit my personal style?
  • Does the program offer a wide range of services to meet my needs?
  • Can I afford the program? Does my insurance cover all or part of the cost?