Cardiac Rehabilitation

Cardiac rehabilitation is a medically supervised program that helps improve the health and well-being of people with heart problems. Cardiac rehabilitation includes exercise training, education, and counseling to help you get stronger and return to an active lifestyle. People who participate in cardiac rehabilitation programs get better faster and reduce future hospital stays.

Cardiac rehabilitation programs can help when you have had the following conditions:

  • Heart attack.

  • Heart failure.

  • Peripheral artery disease.

  • Coronary artery disease.

  • Angina.

  • Lung or breathing problems.

Cardiac rehabilitation programs are also used when you have the following procedures:

  • Coronary artery bypass graft surgery.

  • Heart valve replacement.

  • Heart stent placement.

  • Heart transplant.

  • Aneurysm repair.


  • Reduce problems like chest pain and trouble breathing.

  • Change risk factors that contribute to heart disease, such as:

  • Smoking.

  • High blood pressure.

  • High cholesterol.

  • Diabetes.

  • Being out of shape or not active.

  • Weighing more than 30% over your ideal weight.

  • Diet.

  • Improve your mental outlook so you feel:

  • Less depressed or "blue."

  • More hopeful.

  • Better about yourself.

  • More confident about taking care of yourself.

  • Get support from health experts as well as other people with similar problems.

  • Learn how to manage and understand your medicines.

  • Teach your family about your condition and how to participate in your recovery.


You will be assessed by a cardiac rehabilitation team. They will check your health history and do a physical exam. You may need blood tests, stress tests and other evaluations. You may notstart a cardiac rehabilitation program if:

  • You develop angina with exercise or while at rest.

  • You have severe heart failure that limits your activity.

  • You have an abnormal heart rhythm at rest.

  • You develop heart rhythm problems during exercise.

  • You have high blood pressure that is not controlled.

The cardiac rehabilitation team works with you to make a plan based on your health and goals. Everyone is unique, so each program is customized and your program may change as you progress. Members of a typical cardiac rehabilitation team may include such health professionals as:

  • Doctors.

  • Nurses.

  • Dietitians.

  • Psychologists.

  • Exercise specialists.

  • Physical and occupational therapists.

A typical cardiac rehabilitation program is divided into phases. You advance from one phase to the next. Most cardiac rehabilitation sessions last for 60 minutes, 3 times a week.

Phase One starts while you are still in the hospital. You may start by walking in your room and then in the hall. You may start some simple exercises with a therapist. Health care team members will give you information and ask you many questions. You may not be able to remember details, so having a family member or an advocate with you to help keep track of information.

Phase Two begins when you go home or to another facility. This phase may last 8 to 12 weeks. You will travel to a cardiac rehabilitation center or a place where it is offered. Typically, you gradually increase your activity while being closely watched by a nurse or therapist. Exercises may be a combination of strength or resistance training and "cardio" or aerobic movement on a treadmill or other machines. Your condition will determine how often and how long these sessions will last.

In phase two, you may learn how to cook healthy meals, control your blood sugar, and manage your medicines. You may need help with scheduling or planning how and when to take your medicines. Use a timer, divided pill box, or follow a form to make taking your medicines easier. Use the method that works best for you. Some medicines should not be taken with certain foods. If you take more than one blood pressure medicine, you may need to stagger the times you take them. Taking all your blood pressure medicine at the same time may lower your blood pressure too much. If you have questions about your medicines, ask your caregiver questions until you understand.

Phase Three continues for the rest of your life. There will be less supervision. You may still participate in cardiac rehabilitation activities or become part of a group in your community. You may benefit from talking to other people about your experience if they are facing similar challenges.

How soon you drive, have sex, or return to work will depend on your condition. These decisions should be made should be made by you and your caregiver. If you need help, ask for it. Find out where you can get the help you need. Ask questions until you get answers and understand.


Get medical help at once if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Severe chest discomfort, especially if the pain is crushing or pressurelike and spreads to the arms, back, neck or jaw. Do not wait to see if the pain will go away.

  • Weakness or numbness in your face, arms or legs, especially on one side of the body; slurred speech; confusion; sudden severe headache or loss of vision (all symptoms of stroke).

  • You have shortness of breath.

  • You are sweating, feel sick to your stomach (nausea).

  • You feel dizzy or faint.

  • You experience profound tiredness (fatigue).

Call your local emergency service (911 in the U.S.). Do not drive yourself to the hospital.