Heart disease can be a life changing event. But it can also be a positive life-changing event. If appropriate care is taken, most people not only recover from their event (angina or heart attack), but go on to improve their quality of life to a higher level than before. After a heart event, post-care and rehabilitation is a vital part of the process. A structured cardiac rehabilitation program is crucial to get the patient on the path to recovery, and to prevent further illness.
The term cardiac rehabilitation, as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) refers to coordinated, multifaceted interventions designed to optimize a cardiac patient's physical, psychological, and social functioning, in addition to stabilizing, slowing, or even reversing the progression of the underlying atherosclerotic processes, thereby reducing risk of further disease.
The goals of cardiac rehabilitation are:
Leading cardiology associations such as the American Heart Association, have classified Cardiac Rehabilitation as a Class I recommendation, on par with other life saving measures such as a daily aspirin dose. Extensive research shows that patients who underwent cardiac rehabilitation, showed a 20% reduction in total death and 26% in cardiac (heart) deaths when compared with those on usual medical care.
The outpatient program begins one to four weeks after the patient is discharged following heart attack (myocardial infarction) or angioplasty (PTCA), and the sutures are removed (for those who have had heart surgery or bypass surgery). The program is usually conducted 3days a week, and lasts for 3to 6months depending on the patient's condition.
The patient exercises using portable heart monitoring equipment, known as telemetry. With the help of this special equipment, the ECG is continuously transmitted to the monitoring station wirelessly while the person is exercising. This ensures that the optimal amount of exercise is performed in the safest manner possible.
An individualized program of lifestyle modification, including nutrition, stress reduction and counselling is planned for the patient. Diet forms an important part of a healthy lifestyle and great emphasis is taken to ensure that the patient has a diet plan which is individualized to their needs.
Cure the disease, don't just repair it
Heart disease is caused by the presence of risk factors. During cardiac rehabilitation, great emphasis is placed on educating the patient on his/her risk factors and ways to reduce them. This helps attack the root of the problem. Many cardiac rehabilitation programs also include meditation and yoga, which greatly benefit patients through stress reduction.
Group support helps
Heart disease can be a very traumatic event in a person's life. Several patients go through a short period of depression when they first get out of the hospital, wondering if they will ever be 'normal again', and be able to resume their activities. The support of family and doctors is extremely important, but often the best guidance comes from another person who has gone through the same experience. When in the cardiac rehabilitation program, patients interact with others who have had the same problems. This group support is very helpful to the patients and is an integral part of the program
Those who have had:
While cardiac rehabilitation has several benefits for those with a heart disease, there is a group of patients who should not join, until their clinical condition is stable: