Cardiac Rehab Guidelines - Recovery After a Heart Attack

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What is Cardiac Rehab?

Cardiac rehab is a recovery program for those that have suffered from a heart attack. It is designed to improve the overall cardiovascular health of the individual and provide education for future lifestyle changes. There are four components to cardiac rehab guidelines. The first is a full medical evaluation to assess the current health state. Based on this, an appropriate exercise component is added. Diet modification and other lifestyle changes are incorporated as well. The final component of cardiac rehab is counseling.

Health Evaluation

The first step in cardiac rehab is determining your condition. This involves assessing your physical abilities and medical limitations. Several doctors and nurses will perform tests and monitor your condition over several months. They will see if you have risk factors for high blood pressure, and if you are at risk for developing another heart attack or stroke. As you progress through the rehab, monitoring continues to see how well you are responding to the program.


Gradually, as you recover from the heart attack, you will begin an exercise program that was designed specifically for you, based on your continuing health evaluation. Physical activity is a great way to improve the overall health of the cardiovascular system. There are several exercises that give you a good workout. Walking, jogging, cycling and rowing are effective at getting your heart rate up. Another option is weight training. In addition to the cardiovascular benefits, weight training strengthens the muscles and bones. The intensity of the workout and the duration are limited by your health. The cardiac rehab guidelines include these details to optimize the recovery.

Lifestyle Changes

Along with exercise, there are several lifestyle changes that are included in a cardiac rehab program. The first consideration is diet. A dietitian will help you create a meal plan that is healthy and aimed at reducing fat, sodium and cholesterol. Another lifestyle change that is recommended is quitting smoking.

In addition to these changes, this part of the program educates you on how to deal with fatigue or manage pain. It includes a guide on medications and how to properly take them. By learning these skills, you can cope better with the day to day life following a heart attack.


The final part of a comprehensive cardiac rehab plan is counseling. The focus is mainly on how to cope with a heart attack and the potential for another. It provides support for depression and anxiety. It helps individuals get back to work through vocational and occupational education. By expressing how you are feeling, your doctors can adjust your rehab to address specific issues.


1. “Cardiac Rehabilitation.” Mayo Clinic.

2. “Cardiac Rehabilitation.” AHCPR Supported Guide and Guidelines.