How Cardiac Rehab can help you recover from a heart event

Author: Ohio State Wexner Medical Center

GAIL HOGAN: I'm Gail Hogan, and I'm a heart disease survivor and a patient at the Ross Heart Hospital. Like you, I know the challenges of recovering from heart surgery or a heart procedure. But I discovered the benefits of cardiac rehab to get me back on my feet, feeling stronger -- faster. At Ohio State, there's a team of professionals dedicated to your well-being after a heart event. MARGO: They gave me the confidence to be able to just walk down the street.

Now that I can get on the treadmills and the other machines, I'm gradually making progress and I'm feeling stronger and stronger and more confident. It's amazing what they do here. HOGAN: Margo Ayers admits to being a bit intimidated by cardiac rehab.

Even though members of the cardiac rehab team would be by her side the entire time she was exercising, Margo had some initial fears. MARGO: It was scary to me at first, and it was also like, "How can I fit that into my schedule? I have to go back to work." And it's so easy to just fit 45 minutes in three times a week. It's easy. And I thought, "Oh, I'd have to do it a lot more often than that." No, absolutely not. It's so important -- it's like a foundation for me, it's like a launching pad for me. Dr.

SITARAMESH EMANI: Cardiac rehab is a wonderful, structured program that's individualized and tailored to each patient's condition. So if a patient hasn't exercised before, it's a great way to start because you have personalized instruction on how to start and how not to hurt yourself when increasing your exercise levels. Cardiac rehab is more than just exercise. It's a very comprehensive evaluation where patients receive education about their cardiac disease and how to adapt healthy lifestyle changes to make sure that they continue to get better.

How Cardiac Rehab can help you recover from a heart event

HOGAN: There's also a spirit of camaraderie among the heart patients who participate in cardiac rehab. Craig Porter felt the group cheered you on to success. CRAIG: You get to know the people that are in your class and develop relationships with them, and you learn what their limitations are, what their expectations are, and then you push each other and congratulate each other when you reach a mile stone. HOGAN: Many heart patients don't feel the need for a cardiac rehab program because they believe they can exercise at home after a cardiac event and achieve the same results.

But those who have benefited from rehab will tell you that coaching from cardiac rehab staff members has many benefits. WOMAN: I have a treadmill in my basement and other kind of workout things down there, but would I use it, you know? Probably not. Would I be afraid to use it, you know, by myself, you know? I think I would be a little bit, if something happened and I'm down there by myself. You know, here you know somebody is watching your monitor the whole time you're here. So you feel a little more confident in pushing yourself as far as you can go. Dr.

BRYAN WHITSON: I think the thing that cardiac rehab affords them is that in those initial few days or few sessions when they're going from not doing any real activity other than walking to something more strenuous, they're being monitored so they don't have any problems with their blood pressure or their heart rate, and then coached at appropriate times so that they put in the effort they need to get their cardiovascular reserve back. But then if they're doing too much too, maybe they need to put the brakes on a little bit. ALISON BARNEY: You have a whole team here at the Wellness Center that's really cheering you on, giving you advice, guidelines and suggestions. And at home, you might have your family and friends, but it's really hard to kind of get that consistency of someone to really cheer you on three times a week and show you how to do things to kind of get back on your feet. HOGAN: By far, the most important part of cardiac rehab is getting you moving again, and every patient is evaluated and given a personal exercise program.

Beyond the exercise, there's individual nutrition evaluation and consultation with a dietitian. A pharmacist will review your medications and keep you on track. If any cardiac concerns develop while on rehab, your primary cardiologist will be consulted and problems will be addressed early. And there are group education seminars with information on stress management, coping strategies, nutrition and exercise. The Ohio State cardiac rehab team creates a comfortable environment for everyone. Team members do their best to take away any fear or anxiety patients might have about the rehab process. So what are you waiting for? It's time to get back into life by getting into cardiac rehab.

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By: Ohio State Wexner Medical Center