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Too Few Heart Attack Survivors Choose Cardiac Rehab

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Life after a heart attack can be hard. Many people who have had a heart attack feel overwhelmed, scared, and unsure about the future. Enter cardiac rehabilitation. This health program can help survivors recover. But too few take advantage of it, a recent study found.

Using cardiac rehab

Researchers from the CDC set out to gauge the use of cardiac rehab in the U.S. To do so, they looked at data from a health survey done in 2013 and in 2015. More than 166,000 adults from 20 states and the District of Columbia took part in the surveys. They were asked many questions about their health. Among the questions: Had they ever had a heart attack, and if so, had they been through cardiac rehab?

From the data, the researchers found that only about 1 out of 3 adults who had a heart attack signed up for cardiac rehab. Those less likely to use it were younger adults, women, and African Americans. Those without health insurance also often skipped it.

These findings echo past studies on cardiac rehab. People may not use it for many reasons. They may not have transportation, social support, or time off from work and other duties. Some may not know about cardiac rehab and its benefits. Others may even question whether it really helps.

The benefits of cardiac rehab

Ongoing research shows cardiac rehab can improve a person’s health after a heart attack or other heart problem. It can speed up recovery. It can help prevent future heart issues. People who go through cardiac rehab also tend to live longer than those who don’t.

So what exactly is cardiac rehab? It’s a health program that teaches heart-healthy behaviors to people who have or have had a heart problem, such as a heart attack, heart failure, or heart surgery. A team of healthcare providers guide people through their recovery. The team may include cardiologists, dietitians, exercise specialists, and mental health experts.

Cardiac rehab may take place in a hospital or at an outpatient clinic. It is tailored for each person. It may involve:

  • Exercise training
  • Nutritional counseling
  • Therapy to handle stress, depression, or other mental health problems
  • Stop smoking classes

Questions to ask about cardiac rehab

If you are interested in how cardiac rehab may help you or a loved one, talk with a healthcare provider. Here are some questions to ask:

  • How long does the program last?
  • How will the program help?
  • Is it covered by health insurance?
  • Where are these services offered?

Learn more about cardiac rehab.

Online resources

American Heart Association

National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute

Online Medical Reviewer: Turley, Raymond Kent, BSN, MSN, RN

Date Last Reviewed: 10/1/2017

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