The Benefits of Cardiac Rehab and its Improvement to Mental Health

May 21, 2021

The Benefits of Cardiac Rehab and its Improvement to Mental Health

After experiencing a heart attack, being diagnosed with heart failure, or undergoing cardiac procedures, the road to recovery is not always easy. However, cardiac rehabilitation strengthens the heart and reduces the risk of future cardiovascular events. The CDC states that cardiac rehabilitation reduces the risk of death within five years of a heart attack or cardiovascular surgery by 35%.

Cardiac Rehab is For All Ages with Heart Conditions

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), cardiac rehab is suitable for anyone with a cardiac condition. However, those who stand to benefit most are those who have already experienced a heart attack; have been diagnosed with coronary artery disease, heart failure, or angina; or have had a cardiac procedure such as a coronary artery bypass graft or a pacemaker implanted. Most insurances cover cardiac rehab for patients who experienced any of those conditions, with some exceptions.

Best Approaches Improve Physical and Mental Health

For people managing heart conditions, physical activity is well-documented to improve their heart condition and quality of life. According to the AHA, even patients with increased risk factors like high blood pressure and cholesterol that exercise have lower mortality rates than those who do not. Patients who exercise benefit from lower blood pressure, decreased “bad” cholesterol, improved blood sugar, reduced stress, and better weight management.

While improving physical health is a critical component of cardiac management, a recent publication from the AHA explores the link between mental health and cardiovascular diseases. Mental health conditions like depression and anxiety increase the risk for heart attack, stroke, heart failure, and other cardiovascular-related diseases.

For many people diagnosed with cardiac conditions, feelings of anxiety and depression are common. Patients may often feel worried and nervous, often leading to irritability, anger, trouble sleeping, and even panic attacks. Depression is also common, as patients may feel sad about their condition. While these feelings may improve as patients learn to manage and improve their heart condition, sometimes they worsen, making mental health an important aspect of cardiac rehab.

Providers Can Support Their Patients’ Mental Health Journey

Providers should focus on implementing strategies that foster positive mental health outcomes for their patients. Such strategies include:

●  Positively reinforce a patient’s achievements through calls or texts.

●  Provide optimism and positivity about a patient’s journey to a healthier mind and body.

●  Provide tools needed to manage medications, education, and exercise to reduce risk factors.

●  Provide tools and resources for wellness and well-being.

●  Support patient efforts to build sustainable and self-manageable healthy habits.

●  Encourage patients to find a caring contact and participate in discussions about achievable goals.

●  Address patient barriers to improve adherence to treatment and self-care.

Plus, happier patients, in addition to maintaining treatment, are more likely to sleep better, get more exercise, and not smoke, factors that contribute significantly to improved heart health.

Especially with heart conditions being a significant risk factor to having severe complications from COVID-19, patients have been fearful and worried about their health, contributing significantly to the increasing rise of mental health symptoms. With May as Mental Health Month, there is no better time to improve mental health during cardiac rehabilitation.

FEATS IN HEARTBEATS  –  the moving analytics blog

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