Cardiac Rehabilitation – Rejuvenating Your Heart After Heart Surgery or Attack

Cardiac rehabilitation also known as cardiac rehab is an organized medical program intended to help you improve your heart health and well-being after a heart attack or heart surgery to rejuvenate your heart.

Cardiac rehab aims to set up personalized plan for restoring your strength, trimming down your risk for heart troubles, prevent your present condition from getting worse and improve your quality of life.

American Heart Association and American college of cardiology both highly recommend Cardiac rehabilitation as it increases your chance of survival after the heart surgery/ heart attack.

Cardiac rehab is usually started during your hospital stay (especially after heart attack or heart surgery) and continues with the supervised program on OPD basis till you can safely carry out the home based maintenance program.

Outcome of Cardiac Rehab

The outcome of the cardiac rehab program depends on the collective efforts made by the cardiac rehab team and the long term commitment from the patient. The team includes rehabilitation expert cardiologist, nurses, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, dieticians/nutritionist, psychologists and psychiatrists.

Cardiac Rehab helps to:

  • Recuperate well after the heart attack or heart surgery
  • Reduces the risk factors like high blood pressure, blood cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, smoking, emotional changes and physical inactivity that results in developing coronary heart disease and other cardiac problems.
  • Improves your well-being and quality of life
  • Implement healthy lifestyle modifications that includes healthy diet, physical activity, stress management etc.
  • Prevent looming heart problems and its associated risks.

Cardiac Rehab Phases:

Cardiac rehab is often classed into phases that include medical care and evaluation, supervised exercise training, counselling for stress reduction, lifestyle modification and dietary counselling which helps you return to your active and normal life. This may last for 3-6 months. The phases are;

Medical Care and evaluation: The cardiac rehab team evaluates you for your physical and medical abilities/limitations and checks for any underlying conditions and risk factors you may have to tailor-make an appropriate rehab program to be assured of its safety and effectiveness. The team will keep a track of your progress time to time.

Physical activities and exercise: After the surgery, you shall be able to return to your normal life by the combined efforts of you and your rehab team who will train you to improve your cardiovascular fitness in a comfortable and safe pace. Do notfear if you have not exercised before. You will be trained correct exercise techniques. This includes warming up, walking, cycling, stretching, rowing and other activities that helps build your endurance. Eventually, you have to undergo strength training for building muscle strength and fitness.

Initially for 6-8 weeks after the heart surgery you will be suggested following guidelines;

  • Increase your activity level gradually.
  • Household work can be done but one should avoid standing for more than 15 minutes at one place.
  • Avoid pushing or pulling heavy objects
  • Avoid lifting heavy weights
  • Climbing stairs only if recommended
  • Walking daily according to the guidelines provided by the rehab team.

Lifestyle and dietary modifications: Your nutritionist/dietician shall provide you with the guidelines about your diet that will help you shed your excess weight. He/ she shall help you with heart healthy foods to decrease fat, cholesterol and sodium content in your diet. Lifestyle modifications need to be done to break your unhealthy habits like smoking, drinking etc.

Counselling and Support: Depression is often associated after the surgery which makes your rehabilitation more challenging and leaves a great impact on your life and health. Amending your mental health often takes time and you may feel depressed, anxious, disinterested in working and attending social gatherings for few weeks. Counselling and emotional support from the family and the rehab team shall help you cope with the stress and lead a happy life. You shall be guided to get through your stress and fear to help you resume your active lifestyle with more energy and motivation.


Even after concluding your cardiac rehab program, you still need to endure and continue your exercise and dietary habits that you learned during the program for lifelong to keep your heart healthy.

Your new diet and exercise habits shall let you return to your normal routine as the success of your cardiac rehab program is more likely hinge on your dedication. The more loyal you are in following your rehab team’s recommendation the better you will do.

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