Nearly a million people in America have a heart attack each year, and for two-thirds of these people it is their first episode. Beyond heart attacks, there are many more individuals who may suffer from some other form of heart disease or may have any of a number of surgical and other interventions involving their hearts. Older adults are more at risk for all “cardiac events,” but for those who get a second chance following a cardiac episode, improving heart health should be a priority. Improving heart health is what cardiac rehabilitation is all about.
Who can benefit from cardiac rehab? The simple answer is everyone, but people who have had a cardiac episode may need the support of family and their health care provider to gain the confidence they need to exert themselves and get into better shape. Those who would benefit include anyone who has experienced:
· a heart attack, or myocardial infarction – this results from one of the blood vessels which feed the heart being so clogged that it starves a portion of the heart muscle;
· heart conditions such as angina, congestive heart failure (CHF) or coronary artery disease (CAD); or
· any of the cardiac surgical interventions like heart bypass, percutaneous coronary intervention (balloon angioplasty), stent implants, valve replacements or implanting pacing devices or defibrillators.
What does cardiac rehab look like? Cardiac rehab can be adapted to patients of any age, and it starts with:
- medical evaluation to determine where to start and how far to take rehabilitation;
- medical monitoring throughout all activities as a patient rebuilds their cardiac fitness and aerobic health;
- counseling on one’s condition as well as how to cope with some of the psychological aspects of a cardiac event like depression or anger;
- education on better diet, smoking cessation, stress reduction and simply being “normal.”
What are the benefits of cardiac rehab? Very simply put, most people can achieve more than just recover from a cardiac event; they can improve their health to an even higher level. Such as:
- regular physical workouts to improve your heart health as well as the strength and fitness of your entire body;
- cardiac fitness which lifts the spirits with a boost from the endorphins, a byproduct of working out;
- cardiac counseling which helps the heart patient learn more of what they can do to avoid future events.
Charlotte Bishop is a Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Case Management, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago. Please email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.