Restoring Heart Health
Ray Smith
/ Categories: WELLNESS, 2023

Restoring Heart Health

Life after a cardiac event is better with cardiac rehab

Each year, about 805,000 Americans have a heart attack. For 200,000 of those folks, it’s not their first one. While a second heart attack is not always bigger or worse than the first, it does increase the risk for heart disease, complications, and damage to the heart. Which is why cardiac rehabilitation is so important.

Cardiac rehabilitation, or cardiac rehab, is a medically supervised program that includes prescribed exercise, risk factor modification, diet and nutrition counseling, education, and emotional support. Studies have found that cardiac rehab not only can help a person recover from a heart problem but can also prevent future heart attacks and other heart-related problems. But, like any type of rehab, it only works if you do it.

Certified by the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation (AACVPR) and the only cardiac rehab program in southern Vermont, SVHC’s program is truly a team effort. Not surprisingly, the most important member of the team is the patient.  

Rehab is recommended for anyone who has experienced a heart problem, such as a heart attack, angina, heart failure, or heart surgery. Before beginning a program, the referred patient meets with cardiac rehab team and the department’s medical director and cardiologist Dr. Scott Rogge to develop a plan of care tailored to their condition, challenges, and goals. Each 12-week program begins with an assessment of the individual’s physical health, stamina, and emotional well-being, as well as a review of their lifestyle and habits. From there, the program is built-out to gradually strengthen their heart, address risk factors that may hinder progress, and develop new habits that will lead to greater physical well-being overall. Throughout it all, each patient’s progress is repeatedly reviewed and assessed by the entire team.

Short- and long-term benefits experienced by patients who engage in cardiac rehab include:

  • Strengthened heart and body after a heart event
  • Restored independence by increasing strength and energy  
  • Adoption of healthier habits, such as becoming more physically activity, quitting smoking, and eating a heart-healthy diet
  • Reduced stress
  • Improved mood and lessened depression
  • Reduced risk of future illness and death from heart disease

While studies have found that cardiac rehabilitation decreases the chance that an individual will die in the 5 years following a heart attack by about 35%, surprisingly few eligible patients receive it. In fact, the American Heart Association estimates that only about 20% to 30% of eligible patients participate in cardiac rehab even though it is covered by most private insurance companies.

Without question, the days and weeks after a heart event can be overwhelming for patients as they cope with the stress and anxiety brought on by it. But as the fog lifts, it’s important for patients to seize the opportunity to regain control of their health.

If you have questions about your heart health or to learn if you’re eligible for cardiac rehab, contact SVMC’s cardiac rehab department at 802-447-5132.

Patricia Ryan, RN, MSN, CCRP, is the cardiac rehabilitation program coordinator at SVMC Cardiac Rehabilitation.


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