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cardiac rehabilitation

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Heart attack

Cardiac rehabilitation is a program designed to help a person with heart disease return to health.

What is the information for this topic? 
heart disease is the leading cause of disability and death in Australia. Cardiac rehabilitation is a way to reduce the burden of this disease and improve people's lives. Candidates for rehabilitation include people who: Cardiac rehabilitation has four main parts:
  • exercise, or physical reconditioning
  • modifying Cardiac risk factors to prevent further heart damage
  • psychological rehabilitation
  • vocational rehabilitation, to help the person get back to work
Exercise is at first closely supervised by the cardiac rehabilitation team. The person may be attached to a heart monitor, and blood pressure is checked often. This can be reassuring to someone who is recovering from a heart attack or heart bypass surgery.

Rehabilitation programs must be adjusted to fit each person's needs. For example, those with arthritis may need a special exercise program. A marathon runner who is recovering from a mild heart attack may need a more intense exercise program. A program of regular exercise can improve strength and endurance. It can also have positive effects on blood pressure, blood sugar levels, cholesterol, weight, and emotional state. All of these factors can benefit the heart.

cardiac risk factors must be modified to prevent further heart damage, such as a second heart attack. There are four main ways to reduce heart disease risk factors: These factors can usually be modified through exercise, diet, counselling, or medications.

Psychological rehabilitation is designed to treat the anxiety and depression that often occur with Heart disease. A person may be afraid to walk or to have sex. The individual may be depressed about being unable to do what he or she used to do. Lack of confidence and low self-esteem are also common. counselling or medications can help with these symptoms.

Vocational rehabilitation helps get interested people back to work. A person can learn his or her limitations and when it is safe to return to work. Specialised training programs may also play a role.

In each of the four parts of rehabilitation, short-term and long-term goals are usually set. Some rehabilitation may start in the hospital, before a person even goes home. Most activities will occur after the person gets home. The rehabilitation team may include doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, dieticians, job counselors, psychologists, and others.

The success of cardiac rehabilitation depends mainly on the affected person. A high level of motivation is needed to keep up with the regular exercise, medications, special diet, and counselling. The support of family and friends can be very helpful. Those who stay with the rehabilitation are more likely to prevent a second event and return to better health.

Reviewer: eknowhow Medical Review Panel
Editor: Dr John Hearne
Last Updated: 11/11/2004
Potential conflict of interest information for reviewers available on request

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