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Could Cardiac Rehab Help You Live Longer?

In Brief

  • Cardiac rehab may be recommended for a variety of individuals, including people who have suffered a prior heart attack, patients who have undergone a procedure like open heart surgery or coronary artery angioplasty, and patients who have been diagnosed with a heart condition like angina.
  • Cardiac rehab can help patients stop and in some cases even reverse damage to their heart and blood vessels; live longer and reduce their chances of having a heart attack; get stronger and enjoy a better quality of life; and feel better and more confident doing daily activities, like shopping or walking up stairs.
  • The Crozer-Keystone Health System (CKHS) Cardiac Rehabilitation Program at Springfield Hospital offers patients: individualized exercise programs; education and information to help them better understand their treatment and heart disease risk; monitoring of important heart health indicators, like blood pressure and cholesterol; and counseling and support, including nutrition counseling and stress management. Pulmonary rehab is also provided as indicated.

True or false?Anybody who has had heart problems should not exercise

Richard Schaaf

Richard Schaaf, 
M.D.

because it could put them at higher risk for a heart attack or other health issues.

False. In fact, staying active by participating in a certified cardiac rehabilitation program can actually help patients live longer, feel better, and decrease their risk of heart attack and other heart-related problems.

What’s your heart health?

Spring is a great time to take stock of your heart health. Have you been to the doctor for a checkup lately? Do you have timely readings on your cholesterol, blood pressure, BMI (body mass index) and blood sugar? (These easy tests can help tell you how your heart is doing.) And if you’ve had a heart attack or been diagnosed with a heart condition, have you considered cardiac rehab as way to enhance your overall health?

Is cardiac rehab right for you?

Cardiac rehab may be recommended for a variety of individuals, including:

  • People who have suffered a prior heart attack
  • Patients who have undergone a procedure like open heart surgery or coronary artery angioplasty
  • Patients who have been diagnosed with a heart condition like angina

If you’re among any of these groups, you may ask, “Do I really need rehab? I’m not feeling great, but I’m okay.”

If you’re not sure, the best thing to do is check with your doctor. A cardiac rehab program may be beneficial, and it could possibly even save your life. A doctor’s referral may be needed to participate in certain rehab programs.

The benefits of cardiac rehab

For patients who are coping with heart-related challenges, cardiac rehab offers a whole host of benefits. For example, it can help patients:

  • Stop and in some cases even reverse damage to their heart and blood vessels
  • Live longer and reduce their chances of having a heart attack
  • Get stronger and enjoy a better quality of life
  • Feel better and more confident doing daily activities, like shopping or walking up stairs

People who have suffered a heart problem sometimes feel that they can no longer participate in the activities they used to enjoy, but with the right exercise and care regimen they might end up feeling better than they have in years. It’s important to approach this safely. That’s how a cardiac rehab program can help.

What does cardiac rehab entail?

Patients enrolled in a cardiac rehab program receive expert medical help tailored specifically for them, beginning with an individualized exercise program to help patients build their strength in a safe and appropriate way. They also receive education and information to help them better understand their treatment and heart disease risk, along with monitoring of important heart health indicators, like blood pressure and cholesterol. Additionally, counseling and support are provided, including help with nutrition and stress management, to help patients maintain a healthy overall lifestyle.

In many cardiac rehab programs, like the Crozer-Keystone Health System (CKHS) program at Springfield Hospital, pulmonary rehab may be offered along with cardiac rehab for certain patients, since heart issues and breathing or respiratory issues often occur together. Through programs like these, patients may receive help through therapies such as breathing techniques, smoking cessation and oxygen saturation (to measure oxygen in the blood). Especially for patients whose lungs may be compromised, it’s important to ensure that they have enough oxygen in their system to keep vital organs like the brain and heart functioning properly. 

Pulmonary rehab is not advised for all cardiac patients, but when it is recommended, combining it with cardiac rehab can be beneficial.

Know the facts

Okay, so by now you may be thinking this sounds like it will take some work and dedication on your part. And it will. But consider this: Every year, about 715,000 Americans have a heart attack, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). About 600,000 people die from heart disease in the United States each year — that’s one out of every four deaths. There are many things people can do to keep out of these statistics and enjoy an active life. For some people, cardiac rehab is an excellent place to start.

Richard D. Schaaf, M.D., a Crozer-Keystone cardiologist, is medical director of Crozer-Keystone’s Cardiac Rehabilitation Program, which is based at Springfield Hospital and is certified by the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation. For more information about the Crozer-Keystone cardiac rehab program, please call (610) 328-8764.

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