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Approximately 1 million people in the United States have a heart attack each year. While heart attacks are a main cause of death for both men and women, many people survive and go on to resume healthy, active lives and enjoy many of the same activities they did before having a heart attack.

According to the American Heart Association, cardiac rehabilitation plays a big part in helping people get back to living normal lives.

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What Is Cardiac Rehabilitation?

Cardiac rehabilitation, or cardiac rehab, is a program that can make your heart stronger after a heart attack. While rest and a recovery period follow a heart attack, eventually, the time comes for you to resume your day-to-day life.

A team of doctors, nurses, and other specially trained staff members create a plan that meets your needs and helps you make healthy choices. This usually includes:

  • Exercise
  • A look at your risk factors
  • Tips for healthy habits
  • Support for the emotions you may feel


In cardiac rehab, you’ll exercise to make your heart and your whole body stronger. A nurse or other member of your rehab team will be there while you exercise, in case you have any chest pains or other symptoms.

A Look at Your Risk Factors

There are many risk factors for heart attacks, and it’s important to know what yours are.

You can’t help some risks, like your age, gender, and family history. But you can help other risks, like:

Tips for Healthy Habits

Once you know the facts about your risks, you can learn how to lower them. This usually means taking on healthy habits, like:

Support for the Emotions You May Feel

After a heart attack, you might feel scared, anxious, or depressed.

This is normal, and your rehab team can put you in touch with support groups and counselors that can help you cope with these feelings.

Looking Ahead

While you recover and in the years that follow, you should talk with your doctor if you have chest pain or other symptoms.

If you think you’re having a heart attack, call 9-1-1 right away. Getting help right away can save your life.

About Heart and Vascular Institute

The UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute has long been a leader in cardiovascular care, with a rich history in clinical research and innovation. As one of the first heart transplant centers in the country and as the developer of one of the first heart-assist devices, UPMC has contributed to advancing the field of cardiovascular medicine. We strive to provide the most advanced, cutting-edge care for our patients, treating both common and complex conditions. We also offer services that seek to improve the health of our communities, including heart screenings, free clinics, and heart health education. Find an expert near you.