After an injury, you need to take the time to rehabilitate your body so you can heal. The same goes for your heart. When your heart experiences injury or extreme stress (heart attack, surgery, transplant, etc.), it needs time to heal as well.
Cardiac rehab programs can help you recover from recent heart problems and improve your overall heart health through exercise, education and counseling.
FAQ: Cardiac Rehab
Dennis Kerrigan, Ph.D., a clinical exercise physiologist for Henry Ford Health, answers some common questions about cardiac rehabilitation:
Q: Do I need cardiac rehab?
Kerrigan: After you’ve had a heart attack or heart surgery, your body needs time to adjust and heal. You may feel more tired than usual, have shortness of breath and chest discomfort. Cardiac rehab is designed to help you reduce these symptoms, learn about exercises you can do safely and get you started eating healthier. This way, you can increase your energy levels and feel better about your health going forward.
Q: What do I do in cardiac rehab?
Kerrigan: Cardiac rehab programs are really personalized. Each appointment is catered to your medical needs and your unique health condition. In our program, a team made up of clinical exercise physiologists, dietitians, nurses, behavioral health specialists and your doctor will help you learn more about the importance of heart health. You will:
- Help develop your individual treatment plan
- Attend weekly education classes
- Work out with a personalized exercise program
- Monitor your blood sugar and blood pressure levels
- Track your heart rate and rhythm
- Learn about making healthy lifestyle changes
Q: What do you learn in the education classes?
Kerrigan: At Henry Ford, our education classes are split into two different categories – nutrition, and health and wellness. The nutrition classes use our Heart Smart® Program to help promote a healthy lifestyle by maintaining a healthy weight and controlling blood pressure and cholesterol levels. In these classes, you will learn to:
- Put together a heart healthy eating plan
- Understand nutrition labels
- Cook healthier recipes
- Find heart healthy food options when eating out
The health and wellness classes give you an opportunity to learn more about your heart health and why maintaining a healthy lifestyle is so important. You will cover topics on:
- The anatomy of your heart and how it functions
- How you can make exercise a priority in your life
- Boosting your energy levels
- Managing your emotions and the benefits of positive thinking
Q: What are the workouts like?
A: Your exercise program will be developed only with workouts you can do based on your medical condition. Different workouts on a treadmill, stationary bike, seated elliptical or rowing machine help to build up your endurance. Some strength training may also be included.
The goal of these exercises is to help your heart get stronger again. When you first start your workouts, we will have you wear a heart monitor to record your heart rhythm. As you build up more strength and endurance, you may go through your exercise program independently.
Q: How often do I go?
A: Typically, you will go to cardiac rehab two or three days a week for about three months. Depending on how often you can attend will determine how long will need to finish the program. Our education classes are offered once a week and are about 45 minutes. (In person is best but some education classes are offered online too.) Exercise sessions are one hour.
Q: What should I wear?
A: Wear clothing that you are comfortable in! There’s no dress code and don’t feel like you need to purchase specific “workout” clothes. However, we do recommend that you wear supportive walking or athletic shoes for the exercise program.
Dr. Dennis Kerrigan is a clinical exercise physiologist seeing patients and conducting exercise and cancer research at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit and Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital.