What is Involved in a Cardiac Rehab Program?

man exercising on tredmill next to doctor 

For aging adults, surviving a life-threatening heart condition takes a tremendous toll – both physically and emotionally. When a person is discharged from the hospital following a heart attack or heart surgery, he or she may be referred to a cardiac rehab center for continued care. A cardiac rehab center bridges the gap between hospital and home, offering patients a therapeutic place to recover and learn about lifestyle changes that can improve their cardiovascular health. 

What is cardiac rehab?

Cardiac rehab is a medically supervised program focused on helping cardiac patients recover from the physical trauma of a heart attack, heart surgery, or congestive heart failure. It also provides emotional and mental support during this difficult time, empowering patients to regain control over their own health. Cardiac rehab is a group effort, with a patient receiving encouragement from a full team of doctors, nurses, and physical therapists, plus family and friends. 

The goals of cardiac rehab are to increase a patient’s ability to carry out daily activities, implement lifestyle changes to reduce risk factors, and improve his or her quality of life. 

What is involved in a cardiac rehab program?

The first phase of cardiac rehabilitation occurs when you are still in the hospital. Soon after you stabilize, your medical team will assess your mobility and begin planning for discharge. You may be prescribed an assistive device to help you get around safely, and a social worker will speak with your family about your condition and the benefits of transitioning to a cardiac rehab center

After a patient is discharged and enters a cardiac rehab center, he or she will enter the second phase of rehabilitation. Phase two typically occurs in a skilled nursing facility and involves cardiac rehab exercises designed to improve your cardiac fitness. During this time, your cardiac rehabilitation team will keep a close watch on how exercise affects your heart. You will learn about how to monitor your heart rate during exercise and prepare for more independent activities.

In phase three, you will perform more independent and group cardiac rehab exercises designed to increase your exercise tolerance. Don’t worry; your physical therapist will be there to monitor any changes that come up. In addition to cardiac physical therapy, your healthcare team will provide education on lifestyle changes that can help prevent a future heart attack. Depending on the program, you may receive nutritional counseling, stress management strategies, tips for quitting smoking, and other advice for managing your risk factors. Individual and group psychotherapy offer immense support throughout this emotional time.

Phase four is called the maintenance phase. This phase typically occurs after you have returned home, and you become responsible for you own conditioning. While this phase is independent, your physical therapist will be available to prescribe new cardiac rehab exercises that will help you achieve optimal health and fitness.

Looking for a cardiac rehab center in San Diego?

At Bella Vista Health Center, our 5-star skilled nursing facility provides a safe, therapeutic space for patients to rehabilitate after a traumatic cardiac event. Our team of dedicated healthcare professionals includes doctors, nurses, physical and occupational therapists, social workers, and nutritionists, who will work together to develop a customized program of care to help you return to wellness. Give us a call at (619) 644-1000 or stop by our facility in Lemon Grove for a tour.