Cardiac rehabilitation is a program supervised by doctors to assist patients with heart problems to recover as quickly as possible, and to make improvements in their overall mental, physical, and social lives. A cardiac rehabilitation program can be used by patients recovering from myocardial infarction, angina pectoris (pains in the chest caused by heart arteries which are clogged), coronary revascularization, coronary artery bypass surgery, congestive heart failure, candidates for transplanted hearts, peripheral arterial disease with claudication and other forms of cardiovascular disease, and patients who have pacemaker implants. Rehabilitation enables patients to slow, stabilize, and at times reverse the development of cardiovascular diseases. This can reduce the risk of further heart problems and prolong life. Typically a cardiac rehab program includes: patient counseling on the medical aspects and available options to manage his or her condition; counsel and support for the patient emotionally; exercise training; counseling on diet and nutrition; assisting the patient to manage risks such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, smoking, and physical deterioration.

Post discharge is a time when there are many patients who feel fearful and isolated. Many hospitals in Illinois sponsor special cardiac rehabilitation program for the recently discharged, which address anxiety and depression as well as the patient’s physical well-being. Patients who know they have social support are more likely to recover faster with less distress, and to return to their usual routines with less adjustment. Counseling also includes appropriate use of prescribed medications. Vocational counseling is also available to help patients return to the workplace. Dietary counseling not only provides low salt recipes and regimens, but also aims to improve the lipoprotein and plasma lipid content. Patients are especially encouraged to stop smoking, since this can reduce significantly the risk of further heart attacks, stroke, and death. Normally, exercise programs are also included which vary according to each individual patient’s needs. The exercise may include ECG monitors and be highly structured; or it may be more relaxed with only occasional monitoring; depending upon the specific heart problem and condition of the patient. Exercise training is the centerpiece of cardiac rehab. It should be provided at least two times a week, and last for at least two months. High risk patients should employ echocardiography and exercise testing. These patients should exercise in a hospital setting, or in a place with emergency resuscitation capabilitiy. Other, low-risk patients can use aerobic exercise of moderate intensity with less need for supervision. All exercise training is supervised by a staff of qualified health care professionals. Not only does cardiovascular rehabilitation improve the functioning and life quality of most patients, but it also reduces their risk and enables them to feel optimistic with a sense of well-being once again.

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