For Heart Event Survivors

Cardiac Rehab: the Basics

Your prescription for a healthier heart and a better quality of life overall.

Getting your heart health back on track

Cardiac rehabilitation — also called cardiac rehab — is a customized outpatient program designed to help you regain your strength, reduce your risk of future heart problems, and improve your health and quality of life.

If you’ve had a heart attack or surgery, or are in treatment for heart disease, your doctor may prescribe cardiac rehab. You may start your program while you are still in the hospital, soon after being discharged, or at any other time recommended by your doctor.

What to expect

In cardiac rehab, you’ll work with a team of health professionals. Depending on your goals, your team may include a doctor, a nurse specialist, a dietitian, an exercise therapist, and a physical therapist.

Your program will likely include four components:

  • Medical evaluation. Your health care team will look at your risk factors and tailor a safe, effective program designed for your individual situation.
  • Exercise program. You’ll improve your cardiovascular fitness through walking, cycling, or other endurance activities—and may do some strength training as well. You'll also be taught proper exercise techniques, such as warming up and stretching. The rehabilitation team will make sure the program moves at a comfortable pace and is safe for you.
  • Lifestyle education. You'll also receive support and education on making lifestyle changes and breaking unhealthy habits, including making better food choices and quitting smoking. You may also learn how to how manage pain or fatigue and get advice on taking your medications.
  • Emotional support. Adjusting to a serious health problem often takes time. Counseling can help you learn healthy ways to cope with depression and other feelings.

A healthier future

As you get stronger and learn how to best manage your condition, you'll return to your normal routine— along with your new diet and exercise habits.

One of the most valuable benefits of cardiac rehab is an improvement in your overall quality of life. If you stick with your program, you're likely to come out of it feeling even better than before.

"Yes, it is complicated, but with a positive outlook, relaxation techniques, such as meditation and Reiki, plus daily exercise, I am a survivor."
Kathleen P., I am ProHeart Community Member