Friday, August 13, 2010
ROCHESTER, Minn. — People who participate in cardiac rehabilitation cut their chances of dying of heart disease by nearly 30 percent in the subsequent two to five years, according to the August issue of Mayo Clinic Women's HealthSource. Other proven results include less stress, less pain, reduced risk of future heart problems and improved ability to return to work and participate in social activities.
Yet, fewer than one-third of people who are eligible for cardiac rehab actually participate. Women, minorities and older people in particular are under-represented. Women, especially older women, are less likely to be referred for cardiac rehab and, when referred, less likely to attend.
Cardiac rehab programs are tailored to meet individual needs, but typically include medical evaluation, counseling, training and support to adopt the lifestyle changes that will help prevent future heart problems. Elements typically include:
Increasing exercise: Exercise strengthens heart muscles, so it can pump more blood with less effort. An optimal goal for most people is 45 to 60 minutes of exercise a day, with strength training two to three times a week.
Modifying risk factors: Patients develop a plan to address the risks that contribute to heart disease, including smoking, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol.
Nutrition: Patients work with a dietitian to learn about heart-healthy meal planning and eating, with an emphasis on plenty of fruits and vegetables and foods low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, refined sugar and salt.
Psychological health: Cardiac rehabilitation often includes treatment for mental health concerns, as well as emotional support. Depression is very common after a heart attack or other cardiac event, and women are particularly vulnerable. Patients also may experience anxiety, anger and social isolation; all can contribute to further heart problems.
Cardiac rehab is most often recommended for patients who've had a heart attack. It's also helpful for those who have had coronary bypass surgery, angioplasty, stents or pacemaker placement, heart valve surgery, or a heart or lung transplant. People with heart failure, chest pain (angina), peripheral artery disease or congenital cardiovascular disease also can benefit.
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