7 Things to Know About Cardiac Rehabilitation

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Catherine Spader on November 4, 2020
  • senior woman working out at home
    1. It helps lower your risk of heart disease.
    Cardiac rehabilitation, or cardiac rehab, is a program that helps people with heart disease improve their health. It can help you lower the risk of more heart problems and live a healthy, active life. Cardiac rehab includes education, activity, and support services. It provides safe, effective ways to eat healthier, exercise, stop smoking, and lose weight. You will also learn how to lower cholesterol, control high blood pressure, and manage other risks for heart disease, such as diabetes.
  • surgery
    2. It helps people recover from heart disease and surgery.
    Cardiac rehab can benefit almost anyone with heart problems. This includes coronary artery disease, angina, and heart failure. Doctors also recommend it after a heart attack. Cardiac rehab also helps people recover from heart surgery, including angioplasty, heart bypass surgery, and valve repair or replacement. Cardiac rehab can help your heart and body get stronger.
  • smiling senior man using exericse bike
    3. It includes exercise, education and stress management tips.
    Your cardiac rehab program will be designed just for you. It will address your specific heart problem, fitness level, and risk factors. Programs generally include monitored exercise and education about heart disease and how to improve your heart health. You will learn how to eat a heart-healthy diet and manage your stress. Cardiac rehab also provides smoking cessation programs and emotional support.
  • Senior male patient getting blood pressure measured
    4. Rehab programs last 6 weeks to 6 months.
    Cardiac rehab can improve your energy level and reduce the risk of more heart problems. To achieve this, it’s important go regularly and take an active role. This includes changing unhealthy habits like drinking excessively and smoking. Many people who’ve had heart surgery or another type of cardiovascular surgery typically go to cardiac rehab a few days a week. It can take 6 weeks to 6 months or longer to develop a healthier lifestyle and learn how to manage your heart condition.
  • senior woman exercising down street outside
    5. It is safe and effective for most people.
    You will work with medical professionals who will watch your vital signs and EKG as you exercise. They will also teach you how to exercise safely at home. Rarely, some people have abnormal heart rhythms during exercise. You will learn what to watch for and what to do if you have any problems.
  • Doctor in scrubs with digital tablet and clipboard
    6. Your doctor or hospital will recommend a rehab program for you.
    Hospitals that have cardiology services often offer cardiac rehab programs. Your doctor will likely refer you to the cardiac rehab program most closely affiliated with the hospital where you had your surgery. You can also ask your family, friends, and other healthcare providers for recommendations. Keep in mind the distance to the rehab facility. You want the location to encourage, not discourage you to participate. If you had surgery at a hospital far from home, ask your local hospital(s) about nearby cardiac rehab centers. You can also search for programs in your state through the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation.
  • patient handing nurse health insurance card
    7. Most insurance plans cover cardiac rehab.
    Most insurance plans, including Medicare, cover 2 to 3 months of cardiac rehab. Call your insurance provider ahead of time to ensure your coverage. Ask if you have a copay or deductible to pay. Your insurance may require you to go to a specific rehab program. Talk with your provider ahead of time and ask for a list of in-network programs.
7 Things to Know About Cardiac Rehabilitation

About The Author

  1. Cardiac Rehabilitation. American Heart Association. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/More/CardiacRehab/Cardiac-Rehab_UCM_002079_SubHomePage.jsp.  
  2. Cardiac Rehabilitation Patient Resources. American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation. https://www.aacvpr.org/Resources/ResourcesforPatients/CardiacRehabilitationPatientResources/tabid/50...
  3. What Is Cardiac Rehabilitation? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/rehab/.
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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Nov 4
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.