Cardiac Rehab – Camaraderie, Recovery, Exercise, Motivation and Education

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Cartoonist Randy Glasbergen kind of says it all!  This classic illustration by cartoonist Randy Glassberger kind of says it all!

Like many people, we become too relaxed and infrequent about our exercise workouts.  Our attitude can change quickly when a cardiac event occurs within our life.

Once you recover from the life-changing blow and disbelief that you were the beneficiary of a heart attack or any other cardiac event, you will do what many individuals do – enroll in a cardiac rehabilitation class.

Cardiac rehabilitation is a professionally supervised program to help people recover from heart attacks or heart surgery.  This includes such procedures as coronary artery bypass (CABG), stents/angioplasty, heart valve surgery, stable angina, peripheral artery disease, heart transplant and enhanced external counterpulsation (EECP).

Cardiac rehab is essential after a heart event.  The benefits speak for themselves as one develops cardiovascular fitness and knowledge about risk factors such as cholesterol, high blood pressure and high blood sugar.  In addition to an individualized exercise plan, educational topics include heart disease, heart-healthy eating, smoking cessation, stress management, home activity, medications and cholesterol and hypertension.  The cost of the program is covered by most insurance programs for up to 6 months after a cardiac event.  Gaining self-assurance during exercise and overall well-being speaks volumes about Cardiac Rehabilitation.

You start out slowly and increase your exercise level with the assistance of caring and knowledgeable medical personnel.  You learn new skills as you make a commitment to a lifestyle of exercise, healthy eating filled with education about risk factors.

The Cardiac Rehab program I attend provides an abundant amount of reading material, including a booklet on “Eating for a Healthier Heart”, along with additional material on low-fat diet including actual menu plans, making living a heart-healthy life all so simple.  There is a DVD entitled “Managing Your Cardiovascular Risk Factors” provided by Mayo Clinic.

The American Heart Association reports that only one-fifth of heart patients participate in cardiac rehabilitation.  That is even though years of research have shown it to be critical to recovery and prevent future heart attacks.  There seems to be the misconception that patients believed they are “fixed” after a heart procedure, when, in fact, they have a chronic disease that needs their immediate attention.  Cardiac Rehab exists to improve their long-term outcomes and support them on their recovery and their future.

I would summarize Cardiac Rehab with the acronym CRÈME, standing for CAMARADERIE, RECOVERY, EXERCISE, MOTIVATION and EDUCATION.  And we all know that crème de la crème is the best of all – definitely not something you would forego.

Circulation 2010 reports that regular exercise and greater physical fitness are associated with lower cardiovascular illness and total mortality, both in healthy populations.  The article further states that in clinical trials, exercise training after myocardial infarction (heart attack) improves quality of life and reduces the risk of recurrent myocardial infarction and death.

A journal article entitled Clinical evidence for a health benefit from cardiac rehabilitation: An update in The American Heart Journal (Volume 152, Issue 5 , Pages 835-841, November 2006) reports:

“The role of CR, including regular exercise, lifestyle modification, and appropriate medical therapy, is effective in younger and older men and women with cardiac diagnoses. The efficacy of this important therapeutic modality warrants its more widespread application.”     

The Cardiac Rehab program has 3 phases with Phase 1 beginning while a patient is still hospitalized for a cardiac event.  Phase 2 is for patients following hospitalization with monitoring, exercise and education for risk factor management.  Phase 3 Cardiac Rehab is for heart patients without heart monitoring, but with medical supervision and often classes – a sort of cardiac maintenance program.

Twelve weeks is what research has shown to be successful for participants to begin making lifestyle changes and developing new habits.  And importantly, most insurance plans cover – with a qualifying diagnosis – a 12-week program.

From my perspective and I suspect from any heart patient’s point-of-view, the bond of the shared experience of going through a cardiac event provides a network of understanding and camaraderie that is beneficial in many ways.  Socialization is strategic in learning.  I feel safe expressing feelings and thoughts, sharing medical history and an experience, knowing full well the other patient understands.  My feelings are validated.  We all become “heart buddies.”

We are all at risk for cardiovascular disease.  We all are learning about “knowing our numbers”, about high blood pressure, cholesterol, nutrition, medications, stress and exercise.  The key to any exercise regime is to find something enjoyable and something you are able to commit to long-term.

Each staff member knows our name and treats the entire person, not just our heart, promoting a family-like, caring atmosphere. They personally interact with us while they observe our exercise regime and monitor our heart and physical capabilities.  They are part of a team that wants each individual to succeed.

May this serve as a small tribute to all the cardiac rehab staff that is so essential to our recovery and sense of well-being. They are the individuals who pick us up when we are down and point us in the right direction toward a path of healthy living.

Heart patients all over the world, acknowledge all Cardiac Rehabilitation programs from the bottom of our hearts for your dedication and your skill. Our hearts are filled with over-flowing gratitude.

If you want to do something HEARTFELT for your Cardiac Rehab department, please use my candy bar card idea.

SPREAD the GRATITUDE!

All you need is a sturdy cardboard for the card, double stick tape (I use carpet tape.) and either a big marker or a computer printer.  Buy candy bars that have words that express your feelings.  See my sample below.

Candy bar Card for Cardiac Rehab 

What I’ve learned from Cardiac Rehab…A Tribute to Those Who Cared at Christmastime

~ Live your life EXTRA CAREFREE with GOOD & PLENTY CHUCKLES!

~ Deal with NUTRAGEOUS problems without WHOPPERS of stress by keeping worries TINY SIZED (chicklets) and listening to the soft sounds of the SYMPHONY.

~ SMORES EXERCISE is the key to success even though our knees KRAKEL & CRUNCH and our BUNS sag and become a bit CHUNKY.  ~They never SNICKERS at us for our SLOWPOKE pace.

~ SMARTIES eat SKITTLES of WHATCHAMACALLIT foods!

~ Keep the TIC-TAC of your BIG RED heart below a 100 GRAND or above ZERO.

~ TO SUMMIT it all up: The cardiac rehab department is our LIFESAVER and a SPECIAL TREASURE – a genuine GOLD MINE!

Candy Bar Card for Cardiac Rehab

Candy Bar Card for Cardiac Rehab

Take Care of Your Heart! ♥
Please share your experiences with Cardiac Rehab.

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4 Comments on “Cardiac Rehab – Camaraderie, Recovery, Exercise, Motivation and Education

  1. Great once again, Sharon. I know from what you have shared with your cardiac rehab, that you have gained many friends, lots of wisdom, and a connection that can’t be broken. There seems to be a deep understanding of what you are going through that only those who have been there truly know and understand. You have a kinship with them, and for that I am grateful!

    I love your candy bar card. You taught me how to do those; I am always amazed by your cards. Beautiful job, Sharon, and the words express so much gratitude and positivism.
    Thank you for sharing!!!!
    Love and prayers, Theresa

    • Yes, Theresa, the camaraderie and friendships begun in cardiac rehab become long-lasting and based in a deep understanding. There is nothing quite like it. Thank you for reading and responding. I think I have done candy bar cards for so many of life’s events. It always amazes me that so few people have ever seen them! It is always an exciting challenge to find the right candy bars for the statements you want to make.

  2. love the candy bar lesson. always enjoy reading your educational & motivational blogs. thanks Sharon for lifting me and others up!

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