Common Misconceptions of Cardiac Rehab

February 10, 2015

You have just survived a heart attack or are recovering from a cardiac procedure and are advised by your cardiologist from the side of your hospital bed that you need to begin a cardiac rehab program. You may be thinking, “what’s cardiac rehab?” or “I’ve exercised all my life - I can do this on my own.” A medically-supervised cardiac rehab program customized to your specific health considerations and goals may be very different from your perceptions of cardiac rehab. Here are some common misconceptions of cardiac rehab to help you better understand what to expect when the doctor orders cardiac rehab.

I’m too old to exercise.

Patients of all ages and all physical fitness levels can benefit from cardiac rehab. Prior to beginning an exercise regime, patients are evaluated to establish baseline fitness levels, any limitations and goals to work toward achieving over the courses of the program. Cardiac rehab is a customized, medically-supervised exercise program for patients who have suffered a heart attack and have had a cardiac procedure.

I’m too fit for cardiac rehab.

Whether you used to run half-marathons or rarely missed a Zumba class, after a heart attack or cardiac procedure, your heart muscle may be damaged or weakened. Through  cardiac rehab, your blood pressure and heart rate are monitored before, during and after exercise to ensure your physical exertion is within safe limits. Cardiac nurses oversee your entire exercise session to provide support as needed. 

Cardiac rehab doesn’t really help.

Cardiac rehab is recommended by both the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology based on research that has shown improvements in overall heart health, as well as a reduction in the risk of future heart events. In addition to exercise, cardiac rehab provides patients education, support and resources for diet and nutrition, smoking cessation, blood pressure and cholesterol management, as well as stress management. Lifestyle modifications are a part of life to help manage heart disease. With regular access to cardiac health care professionals, patients are able to seek support and have their questions answered as they progress throughout the program. 

I’m done after the program ends.

Although patients may be successful at showing up for their three-times-a-week exercise sessions in the monitored exercise phase of cardiac rehab, the benefits of cardiac rehab will not last without continuing what you have learned after the program ends. Cardiac rehab is a boost to better heart health for the rest of your life and needs to be continued. Talk about a plan to incorporate exercise on a regular basis at home with your cardiac nurse. Learn at-home exercises that will help reach your heart rate targets, while also understanding how to stay within the safe limits for your own heart health and physical fitness. This is a lifestyle change that needs to be followed out long after graduation from cardiac rehab. 

For more information about cardiac rehab at BSA, please click here, call (806) 212-0756 or send an email to cardiac.rehab@bsahs.org.

{Pictured above: Susan Hunter, RN, and Theresa King, RN, with BSA Cardiac Rehab}

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