Learn About Your Heart...
Made Simple

By Nicolas Shammas, MD

A new, comprehensive sourcebook for
heart and vascular disease patients

Cardiovascular Health Topics

Statistics about Heart and Blood Vessel Diseases in the United States
Structure and Function of the Heart and Blood Vessels
Diseases of the Blood Vessels of the Heart
Surgical Therapies for the Cardiovascular Patient
Peripheral Vascular Disease
Diseases of the Blood Vessels of the Head and Neck
Strokes: How to Survive Them and How to Prevent Them
Valvular Heart Disease
Heart Rhythms: How to Recognize Them and Treat Them
Congestive Heart Failure
11. Understanding Cardiomyopathy, or Weak Heart Muscle
12. Children and Heart Disease
13. Diseases of the Pericardium
14. Systemic Illnesses, Infections and Drugs that Affect the Heart
15. Erectile Dysfunction: a Vascular Disease
16. Cardiovascular Disease Prevention
17. Heart Healthy Nutritional Tips
18. Cardiac Rehabilitation
19. Medications for Cardiovascular Disorders
20. Heart Tests You Need to Know
21. Learn What to Do in a Medical Emergency
22. How to Choose Your Doctor and Hospital
23. Medical Research and How You Can Get Involved
24. Taking the Next Step — A Few Community Resources to Help You Live More Healthfully
25. How Much Did You Learn from This Book: Take a Simple Test

How do I get started in a cardiac rehabilitation program?

Following your cardiac incident, you will need to discuss with your physician if cardiac rehabilitation is appropriate for you. Often, after a heart attack, heart surgery, or other heart treatment, your physician will enroll you in a cardiac rehabilitation program while you are still in the hospital setting. The inpatient program and your physician work together to refer you to an appropriate outpatient program in your area.

If your physician has not discussed cardiac rehabilitation with you, call the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation (AACVPR) at 312-321-5146, or log on to http://www.aacvpr.org for information on local options available to you.

How do I find a program that is right for me?

When choosing a cardiac rehabilitation plan, ask about:

  • Time—is it offered at a time you can get there without causing added stress?

  • Place—is it easy to get to? Keep in mind that traffic problems can add to your stress. Is there parking? Is there public transportation?

  • Setting—do you want to be in a group with professional supervision?

  • Services—does it offer a wide range of services, such as the areas you need most help (for example, smoking cessation program, dietary consult, etc.)?

  • Cost—is it affordable? Is it covered by insurance? Your insurance may cover all or part of the cost of some cardiac rehabilitation but not others. Find out what will be covered and for how long.

Cardiac rehabilitation has lifelong favorable effects, so choose a plan that includes activities you enjoy.

Is exercise in a cardiac rehabilitation setting safe?

Cardiac rehabilitation is safe. Studies show that serious health problems caused by cardiac rehabilitation are rare. Emergency equipment and trained personnel are available to deal with any unusual situations should they occur. Before beginning physical activity in each session, you will be screened for potential exercise-induced complications and level of risk. Checking how your heart reacts and adapts to exercise is an important part of cardiac rehabilitation.You may be connected to an ECG transmitter while you exercise (Phase I and II). You also check your own pulse rate and/or estimate how hard you are exercising. This helps you understand how your body is reacting to your everyday activities.

Do men and women benefit equally from cardiac rehabilitation?

Both men and women will achieve improvements in cardiovascular conditioning and risk factor modification by attending a cardiac rehabilitation program. However, individual goals and education provided may be gender-specific. For instance, men generally have their initial incident at a younger age, so they may have a higher activity goal in mind.Women have different symptoms than men and may respond differently toward some treatments, so additional educational information may be provided to meet their needs.

What will I do in cardiac rehabilitation?

Your first visit includes an orientation session to help you become familiar with the staff, facility, and activities. During this first session, a staff person completes a comprehensive assessment. Based upon your assessment, an exercise plan is developed around your individual abilities, needs, and interests. Most of your activities occur in a group setting. However, individual counseling is made available as needed.

The exercise-training component helps you learn how to exercise in a structured setting. Exercise options may include, but will not be limited to, the following:

  • Treadmill

  • Track

  • Bicycle

  • Swimming or water aerobics

  • Rowing machine

  • Arm ergometer

  • NuStep

  • Cross country ski

  • StairStepper

  • Hand weights

  • Weight machines

  • Balls.

The hour-long exercise session starts with a warm-up regimen, progresses to aerobic activity then to strength training, and ends with a cool-down session that usually includes some flexibility activities. Progression of exercise is determined by your responses.

Aerobic exercise raises your heart rate and blood pressure in an attempt to condition your heart. This helps to improve the flow of oxygen-rich blood throughout your body. Strength training, such as using weights, improves your muscle strength and your stamina. Stretching exercises help to increase your flexibility. It can also help to reduce arthritis pain if a condition currently exists.

The education component helps you understand your heart condition and find ways to reduce your risk of future heart problems. The cardiac rehabilitation team helps you recognize and change unhealthy habits you may have and establish new, healthier habits.They will also help you learn how to cope with the stress of adjusting to a new lifestyle and to deal with your fears about the future. Classes may include, but will not be limited to, information on:

  • Diet

  • Smoking cessation

  • Weight loss

  • Stress

  • Medications

  • Exercise

  • Diabetes

  • Lifestyle modification

  • Heart function

  • Signs and symptoms of a heart attack•

  • Congestive heart failure.

Your educational progress is evaluated on a regular basis and staff adjust your therapy according to your individual responses.

With the cardiac team, you will plan, communicate, and take charge of your health.

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