Cardiac Rehab is Underutilized

Heart disease tops the list of chronic diseases resulting from aging.  It is one of the most under diagnosed diseases in women, with more women dying from heart disease than breast cancer. By age forty, one in two individuals are diagnosed with high blood pressure which contributes to heart disease.  Other risk factors include high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity and a sedentary lifestyle.  A healthy heart benefits the body in more ways than you might imagine.

So why after major heart surgery is rehabilitation not always recommended for individuals who would benefit from disease management programs and cardiac rehab?  Individuals having a hip replacement or experiencing a stroke may recognize the benefits of physical rehabilitation which is almost always recommended.  But cardiac rehab is not as frequently discussed with heart patients. Recommendations typically come from physicians and are influenced by physical therapists, nurses, case managers and others.  This is one area where those with influence can and should do a better job of making the recommendation for cardiac rehab.

This is also an area where consumers must know what questions to ask to advocate for care.  Cardiac rehab is designed to reduce the risk of further heart damage while an individual returns to a life as normal as possible.  It includes heart strengthening exercise in addition to nutrition and stress counseling and social support.  Research indicates that the degree to which a physician recommends cardiac rehab effects the degree to which patients will participate in the program.

Medicare and most private insurance pay for rehabilitative therapies.  Disease management programs educate about risks for heart disease.  Evidence shows that cardiac rehab can reduce the risk of death from a second heart attack by as much at thirty percent.  Spread the news by discussing the benefits of cardiac rehab with others and if you have heart disease, or any chronic health condition, ask your physician about disease management programs and rehabilitative therapy.

Reference:  Brink, Susan.  Few patients get cardiac rehab care. Denver post 11/5/07 p 5F.

©2012, 2013 Pamela D. Wilson, All Rights Reserved

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