The Benefits of Cardiac Rehab

Cardiac rehab is a major component in the lives of individuals who have experienced a cardiac event such as a heart attack, bypass surgery or heart transplant. Through personalized sessions, individuals are taught how to maintain a heart-healthy lifestyle and are given tools to keep it going for the long-term.

The cardiac rehab team at Hillcrest Medical Center, which consists of nurses, an exercise physiologist, a dietitian and a health behavior specialist, uses a team approach, working together to help the patient as a whole. Mary Ritchie and Karen Grunklee-bakke, cardiac rehab specialists, break down the specifics of the cardiac rehab program.

What takes place in an average cardiac rehab session?

Patients arrive to their session, weigh in, attach their heart monitor and take a seat to rest for a few minutes before having their heart rate, heart rhythm and blood pressure measured. A cardiac rehab team member develops an exercise plan that is individualized to each patient’s needs. Exercise usually begins on the treadmill, step machine or bike, each lasting for 10 minutes at a moderate intensity. If there are no upper body restrictions, patients will also spend roughly four minutes on the arm ergometer. Blood pressure is also measured during the exercise portion of the session. When finished, patients rest for a recovery period and have their blood pressure measured again. Patients will also meet individually with the registered dietitian and a health behavior specialist. Patients also attend five group classes where things like risk factors, medications, nutrition, stress and exercise are discussed.

What are the benefits of cardiac rehab?

In cardiac rehab, patients will learn a maintainable exercise program. It is a safe environment for them to begin exercise where trained professionals are monitoring their blood pressure, heart rate and heart rhythm. Patients learn a lot about their heart and have the opportunity to ask questions. If anything concerning is noticed during a session, the cardiac rehab team notifies the cardiologist or sends the patient to the emergency room if needed. Patients leave feeling educated about making heart healthy choices and are aware of what puts them at greater risk.

What is the goal of cardiac rehab?

Through cardiac rehab, the goal is to help patients develop healthy eating habits, learn how to lower and properly control stress and develop an exercise program that they will be able to maintain.

How can patients continue to improve their heart health after completing the cardiac rehab program?

We encourage patients to join a fitness center for lifelong exercise and continue to use the heart healthy knowledge they gained during cardiac rehab.

Both Grunklee-bakke and Ritchie enjoy watching the progress that patients make during their time in cardiac rehab.

“Being able to develop relationships with our patients following their cardiac events is wonderful,” said Grunklee-bakke. “We all want to help them build the confidence needed to maintain a healthy lifestyle for the rest of their lives.”

“Patients often come to us feeling insecure and frightened,” said Ritchie. “It’s rewarding to see them leave our program with a newfound confidence. Many of them feel like cardiac rehab has given them their life back. We emphasize the importance of physical health, but emotional health is just as important.”

For more information regarding cardiac rehabilitation at Hillcrest Medical Center, please call 918-579-4959.