Cardiac Rehabilitation is a program that includes physical exercises designed to help improve cardiovascular health and to prevent further cardiovascular events in someone who is recovering from a cardiovascular event or has just undergone a surgical cardiac procedure such as artery stenting or heart or valve surgery. The ideal CR programs consists of 36 sessions of physical exercise, education about maintaining a healthy lifestyle and counseling for stress. Doctors often recommend CR for a patient who:
Research has shown that a physical exercise program for patients after cardiac surgery not only reduced the chance for death from any cause, but also was associated with a shorter stay in the hospital and a decreased chance for hospital readmissions. Research also shows that CR improves mood and quality of life.
In spite of all these scientifically proven benefits and the fact that most public and private health plans contribute to the cost, the amount of people enrolling in a cardiac rehabilitation program remains low about 19-34%. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that only one in three of every post heart attack patient enrolls in a CR program.
Part of the reason for low enrollment may be that people are afraid to exercise after experiencing heart problems.
While at one time doctors did not send patients with congestive heart failure to physical exercises, a study published in JACC in December, 2013 found that people with stable congestive heart failure actually benefit from CR.
Only those with CHF who also have conditions like uncontrolled diabetes, uncontrolled high blood pressure, moderate to severe stiffness of the aorta, hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy, a risk for blood clots or other medical conditions for which physical exercise can be dangerous are not sent to CR.
Congestive heart failure affects over six million Americans with about 650,000 new cases diagnosed every year and is on the rise as the aging population continues to grow. CHF is the leading cause for hospitalization in seniors that account for about a million hospital admissions every year. It is also a major risk for disability, poor quality of life, diminished ability to function and death. You can read more about congestive heart failure in our blog post from June 29, 2018.
Million Hearts has set a goal to get enrollment in CR programs up to 70% participation for those who need it the most. To this end they have gathered tools, fact sheets and videos from other organizations such as the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation (AACVPR), the American College of Cardiology, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, and other organizations that can be used by health care providers and doctors to encourage people who can benefit from CR to enroll in a cardiac rehabilitation program.
The Ditmas Park Rehab and Care Center in Brooklyn, New York has an excellent post cardiac surgery exercise program. Ditmas Park also offers integrative therapy at its best which even includes pet and music therapy.
NYU Langone Hospital—Brooklyn (formerly named NYU Lutheran Medical Center)
Since cardiac rehabilitation is so beneficial, more should be done to reach people who could benefit from it.
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