February has us seeing hearts.

Each year about 1 million people survive heart attacks in the United States. These survivors will receive cardiac rehabilitation care both in the hospital and after they return home.   February is National Heart Health Month, so it is only fitting that National Cardiac Rehabilitation Week is February 10-16.

What is Cardiac Rehabilitation Week?
This week is sponsored by the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation (AACVPR) as a chance to celebrate the patient, families, staff, and their focus on reducing the effects of heart disease through cardiac rehabilitation services. It is also a time to recognize physician offices and thank them for their referrals and efforts with cardiac rehabilitation patients.

What is cardiac rehabilitation?
The American Heart Association’s definition of cardiac rehabilitation is: a professionally supervised program to help people recover from heart attacks, heart surgery and percutaneous coronary intervention procedures such as stenting and angioplasty. Cardiac rehab programs usually provide education and counseling services to help heart patients increase physical fitness, reduce cardiac symptoms, improve health and reduce the risk of future heart problems, including heart attack.  IU Health Ball Memorial offers a three phase cardiac rehabilitation program; which starts in the hospital (Phase I), to immediately post-discharge (Phase II), to a self-pay maintenance program (Phase III) for patients who have completed the acute phases or have a direct referral to the maintenance phase. Patients learn exercise programs, meet with dieticians, pharmacists, counselors, on an individual basis and attend educational classes covering many other important topics that affect their recovery.

Why is cardiac rehabilitation important?
It has been proven that Cardiac Rehab reduces re-hospitalization rates, reduces recurrent sudden cardiac death, lessens the need for cardiac medications, and increases the rate of persons returning to work.   All aspects of the patient’s health is taken into account by their rehab team, and their goal is to help the patient achieve their optimal physical, psychological and social functioning through exercise training and lifestyle change. Cardiac rehabilitation is a tool that allows patients to leave the program well equipped and able to make smart decisions regarding their lifestyle. 

What are the warning signs of heart attack?
According to the American Heart Association, signs that a heart attack is happening include, chest discomfort, discomfort in other areas of the upper body, shortness of breath, nausea and lightheadedness. Women are more likely to experience shortness of breath, nausea, and back or jaw pain when having a heart attack.  It is so important to realize that the signs and symptoms for heart disease are very individualized and very different between men and women.

What steps can I take to help my heart?
Aside from a healthy diet and exercise, it is important to know your risk. You can learn your numbers and risks by seeing your physician to check for high cholesterol, elevated blood sugar and signs of diabetes. Also, know your family’s history. Even with a healthy diet and exercise program, your risk for heart disease could increase as much as 82 percent if both your parents had heart disease. Finally, quit smoking. Smoking causes arteries to narrow, blood pressure to rise, and blood to thicken which could lead to a heart attack. Eating healthy, knowing your risks, exercising, and quitting smoking can improve your heart health.

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