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When Should You Go to Cardiac Rehab?

| Date Posted: 1/28/2022

When you think of cardiac rehabilitation, you may think it’s just something people need to do immediately after a major heart attack. But the fact is that there are many other cardiac diagnoses that require medical care or surgery — including moderate to severe heart disease, heart failure, heart surgery or a heart attack — that can be helped by cardiac rehab.


Not sure exactly what cardiac rehab is, when you should go or what the benefits are? Melissa Stewart, R.N., clinical director for FirstHealth's cardiac rehab program, has answers to common questions.


What is cardiac rehab?

Cardiac rehabilitation is a physician-supervised program that helps you develop healthy habits that are good for your heart in a supervised environment. Programs are tailored to the individual needs of each patient and are aimed at reducing cardiovascular risk factors. You’ll learn how to safely increase the amount of physical activity you do. You’ll also receive guidance on other aspects of heart-healthy living, including how to eat healthy, ways to relieve stress, why it’s important to take medication as prescribed and how to improve mental health. If you smoke, you can get help quitting.


Is cardiac rehab only for people who had a heart attack?

No, patients with many other types of heart problems can also benefit from a cardiac rehab program. If you have heart disease that’s being managed by a doctor or have recently had heart surgery or a heart attack, you may benefit from joining a cardiac rehab program. Even if you think you won’t be able to do the physical activity, joining a cardiac rehab program can help. Exercise specialists, registered nurses and registered dietitians are trained to help people with physical limitations improve strength and mobility.


What are the benefits of cardiac rehab?

Benefits from cardiac rehab can help in both the short and long term. Research shows that people who attend 36 sessions of cardiac rehab have a 47% lower risk of death and a 31% lower risk of heart attack than those who only attend one session.


Benefits include:


  • Strengthening your heart and relieving symptoms, such as chest pain.
  • Making it easier to adopt and stick with healthier habits, such as exercising, eating healthy, reducing stress and quitting smoking.
  • Helping you manage cardiac risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.
  • Increasing energy and strength to make it easier to carry out every day activities.
  • Improving your mood.
  • Making you more likely to take prescribed medication, which may lower the risk of future heart problems.


What if I think I can benefit from cardiac rehab but my doctor hasn’t recommended it?

If you think cardiac rehab is right for you, talk to your doctor and advocate for your health. Primary care physicians, cardiologists, and cardiothoracic surgeons can refer you to a cardiac rehab program. Our FirstHealth programs in Pinehurst, Rockingham, and Sanford are nationally certified through AACVPR and excel in providing you an exemplary program to help you break down barriers to improving your current and future heart health.


Cardiac Rehab at FirstHealth

The Cardiac Rehabilitation Program at FirstHealth is dedicated to helping patients with heart disease adopt a healthier lifestyle. The program includes education, counseling and exercise in a friendly environment. Participants who attend regular classes develop a camaraderie that is supportive and helps the healing process. FirstHealth Cardiac Rehabilitation locations are in Pinehurst, Richmond and Sanford. 

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