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Happy Valentine's Day! It's National Cardiac Rehab Week

The American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation (AACPR) observes Cardiac Rehabilitation Week and encourages us to " Live and Learn with Heart" as we seek to decrease the devastation of heart disease. The National Libraries of Medicine and the NIH have put together a great online tutorial for understanding heart disease and rehabilitation.

Cardiac Rehabilitation is a comprehensive, multidisciplinary program for recovering from heart attack, heart failure or heart surgery. Exercise, behavior modification and education are structured and supervised by a team of cardiology health professionals to improve the health status and quality of life of heart disease patients. A cardiologist prescribes the program which is coordinated by nurse specialists, physical therapists, social workers, occupational therapists, exercise physiologists and nutritionists. Blood pressure and heart rhythm are monitored as the patient progresses and gradually increases his or her activity level. Smoking cessation is a crucial component of a successful Cardiac Rehab Program.

Cardiac Rehab programs were developed in the late 1970's as cardiologists like Kertzer and Gladstone observed that patients who participated in supervised exercise recovered better than did patients on bed rest. In the early days, white men who had suffered heart attacks were referred to the programs. Despite the rising incidence of heart disease in women and minorities, physicians are lagging in referring them to Cardiac Rehab Programs. Even kids with congenital heart defects are getting into the action!

Children's Hospital of Boston is initiating a 12 week program for kids who are usually told to rest. Initial research about the benefits of pilot program was compelling for a positive impact and we can look forward to more of these programs for kids. Internationally, New Zealand Evidence Based Research recommends cardioprotective dietary changes for everyone and a case management approach to individualize programs for success. If someone you know needs help recovering from a "broken heart", encourage them, no matter what age, race or gender, to discuss cardiac rehabilitation with their doctor. It could just help save a life!

Photo of Florence Griffith Joyner statue at Olympic Park courtesy of debaird.
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