Cardiac rehab is handled by a team of health professionals led by a medical director, and includes nurses, exercise physiologists and dietitians. You can also get consultations with a health psychologist if you’re depressed or anxious. Cardiac rehabilitation usually happens in 3 phases:
Phase 1 - Inpatient cardiac rehabilitation. This is when you’re in the hospital immediately after cardiac surgery or another treatment. You’ll begin mild exercise to improve your strength before you go home. You’ll also receive education and counseling about risk factors.
Phase 2 - Outpatient cardiac rehabilitation. This usually starts 1 to 4 weeks after you return home. You’ll need a referral from your doctor to participate. The program includes supervised exercise at a hospital or clinic. As you exercise, we monitor your heart rate, heart rhythm and blood pressure. You’ll use different pieces of exercise equipment, such as a treadmill, stationary bike and elliptical machine. You’ll also receive group and individual counseling aimed at modifying your risk factors. You’ll learn more about physical activity and nutrition, how to quit smoking, how to manage your weight, blood pressure and cholesterol, and more. Depending on your diagnosis, insurance (including Medicare) usually covers this portion of rehab.
Phase 3 - Maintenance. After you’ve completed your Phase 2 program, you might want to stay in a supervised program in a hospital or clinic because it can help you cement the good habits you’ve learned and continue to improve.
Once you’ve completed a cardiac rehab program, you’re encouraged to continue a lifelong habit of exercise and healthy eating.