How To Get Your Life Back After Heart Disease Strikes?
By Ng Peng Hock
Heart disease often destroys lives, particularly heart attack that can strike suddenly and without warning. It is estimated that half of all people who suffer a heart attack may die even without reaching hospital for treatment. People who survive from heart attacks are often disable both mentally and physically.
Being an essential program that helps such people rebuild their lives, cardiac rehabilitation can also assist people who have congestive heart failure, or who have undergone coronary artery bypass surgery, coronary angioplasty, pacemaker insertion or heart valve surgery.
Cardiac rehabilitation usually takes place in a hospital and is suitable for most patients after their initial heart problems. It aims to help patients understand and better manage their heart disease. Doctors, specialist nurses, dieticians, pharmacists, and other healthcare professionals are included in the rehabilitation team. Cardiac rehabilitation can provide guidance for people to change their lifestyles, which includes establishing good dietary and exercise habits. The goals are to improve cardiac risk factors such as smoking, cholesterol, high blood pressure, weight loss, diabetes control, and fitness levels. The ultimate aim is to enable heart patients to resume their normal lives and to prevent deterioration of their heart conditions.
During the program, heart patients are monitored regularly for changes in heart rate, blood pressure and ECG. The structured exercise regime employs treadmill, stationary cycle and resistance training using weights if appropriate for strengthening. Level of exercise is tailored to suit each individual person.
The first outpatient phase of cardiac rehabilitation usually comprises 3 sessions weekly of an hour per session. The length of this phase generally lasts for 6 to 12 weeks though it may vary from case to case. The main focus of this phase is to pitch the patient's exercise routine to achieve better fitness and strength. This phase is then followed by regular maintenance to preserve the level of fitness already achieved earlier and should continue indefinitely.
According to some studies, exercise and participation in cardiac rehabilitation can prevent further deterioration in people with heart disease. In the national heart disease and exercise program conducted in United States, the death rate of people with heart disease who exercised regularly was reduced by 37 percent compared to people who were sedentary. Another study conducted by Stanford University showed that people with coronary artery disease who adopted intensive change in lifestyle and appropriate medications had reduced narrowing of their heart arteries at the end of a 4-year period.
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