In the early days of cardiology, patients with heart disease were told to rest for a few weeks or months after a heart attack- but times have changed.
“We watch them get stronger. Their heart actually benefits from the program itself. So we see their progress through their exercise progression,” says Alexis Collins, registered nurse with Lee Memorial Health System.
The modern concept of cardiac rehab has overtaken the early notion of taking it easy. Today’s rehab is a structured 12 weeks of supervised exercise and lifestyle education.
“We do cardiovascular exercise with them. And at the same time we provide education on those risk factors to help them modify them so the cardiovascular disease isn’t a problem for them in the future,” says Collins.
Medicare covers the program for heart attacks, angina, stents, heart transplantation, open-heart surgery, which includes bypass, graphs or heart repair.
The kick-start to a healthy heart pays off. Studies show people who enroll in cardiac rehab cut their risk of dying in the next six years by 50%. This held true for men and women, young and old - some who may start exercising for the first time.
“Some of our more intense machines would be our elliptical machine; our rowing machine can be a little bit more labor intensive and our Stairmaster. So we have room for progression for everybody and that also teaches you what to do when you go off to the gym, so they know what’s safe to do,” says Collins.
No matter your age or heart history, a medically supervised program may put you on pace for healthier tomorrow.