Studies show that cardiac rehabilitation, also called cardiac rehab, can help you live longer and avoid future heart problems after a heart attack or other cardiac event. You may wonder what to expect from a cardiac rehab program.

What Is Cardiac Rehab?

Cardiac rehabilitation, also called cardiac rehab, is a supervised outpatient program that can help make your heart stronger and your body healthier after a heart attack, heart surgery, stent placement, or other cardiac event.

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What Happens at Cardiac Rehab?

A team of nurses, dietitians, and exercise specialists will develop a plan based on your specific needs. Most plans include:

  • Exercise, like walking on a treadmill or pedaling a stationary bicycle, to make your heart and your whole body stronger
  • A risk factor assessment that can help you understand the risk factors you can’t control, like your age and family history, and the risk factors you can control, like your weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
  • Tips for healthy lifestyle choices, like quitting smoking, choosing healthier foods, and finding healthy ways to cope with stress
  • Support for the emotions you may feel, like fear, anxiety, or depression

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Who Should Go to Cardiac Rehab?

Many people can benefit from cardiac rehab, including people who have or have had:

If cardiac rehab is right for you, your doctor will provide you with a prescription for the program.

Will I Exercise on My Own?

No. During cardiac rehab, you’ll exercise under the supervision of specially trained staff. A nurse or other staff member will be there at all times in case you have symptoms.

How Often Will I Need to Go?

Most people go to cardiac rehab three times per week for one hour.

How Long Does It Last?

Most programs last six to 12 weeks, depending on your needs.

When Should I Start Cardiac Rehab?

Every person will have a different heart attack recovery time, so it’s best to start cardiac rehab as soon as your doctor tells you it’s okay to do so.

To learn more about cardiac rehab, visit the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute or call 1-855-UPMC-HVI (876-2484).

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.