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Heart Disease overview > cardiac rehab >

Cardiac Rehab Q&A

Edited by Leslie Pepper

Cardiac rehab expert David Z. Prince, M.D., answers the most commonly asked questions about rehabilitation and life after a heart attack.

Q: How long is the rehabilitation process?

A: Technically, rehab begins almost immediately after you wake up from surgery or you find out you have heart disease. This first phase of rehab can last anywhere from one day, if you’ve had a simple stent surgery, to six weeks or longer for a major cardiac event with complications. Phase 2 is done on an outpatient basis, two to three sessions a week, usually for 12 weeks. Phase 3 is done on your own, and that lasts for the rest of your life.

Q: Do I really need cardiac rehab?

A: Yes, absolutely. The majority of Americans don’t exercise regularly, and even those who do are nervous about returning to the gym after a heart attack or surgery. Cardiac rehab gives you the chance to exercise safely and effectively while being observed by a doctor in a monitored setting.
           
In addition to exercise, cardiac rehab will teach you all sorts of things to help you stay healthy. Cardiac rehab can help you lose weight, decrease depression, increase your self-esteem, and increase your sense of optimism.

Q: Will insurance cover it?

A: Yes, though I’ve noticed a disturbing trend toward higher co-payments required for each session. The good news: In March 2006, Medicare increased the number of medical conditions that qualify you to receive cardiac rehab from three (heart attack, bypass, angina) to seven (including valve replacement, stent, angioplasty, transplant). It’s apparent that the government believes that everyone who has had a heart event should get cardiac rehab. Insurance companies should follow suit. 

Continued on Page 2: Cardiac Rehab Q&A II
 
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