How to Choose a Cardiac Rehabilitation Program


Paige Greenfield

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Women doctor checking heart of male patient

After an angioplasty or other heart procedure, your doctor may recommend cardiac rehabilitation. During cardiac rehab, you’ll work with a team of experts including doctors, nurses, exercise specialists, dietitians, physical therapists, and others to improve your health and reduce your risk for heart problems down the road.

Choosing a cardiac rehabilitation program may seem overwhelming. These five questions can help you find the one that’s best for you.

1. Is it convenient? Many people are in cardiac rehab for three months or longer. Depending on your particular condition, you may be attending sessions frequently at first. Find a center that’s close to your home and that offers services at convenient times. This can help ensure you’ll attend as often as needed and stick with it in order to experience all the benefits.

2. Will it offer a plan that’s specific to me? Cardiac rehab is not one-size-fits-all. Make sure that the cardiac rehab team gets to know you and your health history, risk factors, and goals. Your particular cardiac rehab program should be designed to meet all your needs.

3. Does the program address my mental health? People who have heart disease or have had a heart attack or heart surgery commonly experience anxiety and depression. These issues can increase your risk of developing heart disease or make an existing condition worse.

If you experience sadness, anxiety, anger, or feelings of isolation after heart surgery, it’s important to get help. A mental health specialist on your cardiac rehab team can help you address these issues. Even if you don’t need them now, it’s good to have those services available if your situation changes.

4. How will the program help me in my day-to-day life? The skills you learn in cardiac rehabilitation should last long after you’ve completed the program. Find out how the cardiac rehab team helps you turn these lifestyle changes into an everyday routine. For instance, find out how the nutritionist or dietitian will work with you to create a heart-healthy meal plan you can enjoy. It’s one thing to learn about healthier cooking, but unless you like the food you’re preparing, you may not eat it. In addition, an exercise specialist should show you how to perform new exercises at home. As a result, once you’ve finished cardiac rehab, you’ll have the tools you need to maintain a healthier lifestyle on your own.

5. Can the program help me return to my job? If you have a physically demanding job, you may be concerned about how you’re going to return to work safely. Find out how the program can help you. For instance, your rehab team may recreate different aspects of your workplace so you practice in a safe and controlled setting. Then, you’ll be able to take those skills with you when you return to work.

If it's been more than a few years since high school biology class, you've probably forgotten what a powerhouse your heart is.
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Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: May 28, 2016

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Medical References

  1. “What Is Cardiac Rehabilitation?” National heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
  2. “What To Expect During Cardiac Rehabilitation.” National heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
  3. “What To Expect When Starting Cardiac Rehabilitation.” National heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

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