Anyone who has been through cardiac rehabilitation will tell you that it is not always easy. After a heart attack or heart surgery, your doctor may recommend cardiac rehabilitation. Working with a team of doctors, nurses, therapists and other medical care providers you learn how to improve your health and prevent future problems from occurring.
This means you will need to adopt new habits, such as starting an exercise program or changing how you eat. At times it may feel difficult, especially if those changes are very different from what you were doing before. Here are a few ways that can help you stick with cardiac rehab and reap the benefits.
Find physical activities you like to do: Exercise is a big component of cardiac rehab. Regular physical activity can strengthen your heart, decrease your risk for heart disease, and improve your strength, flexibility and endurance.
You are more likely to stick with exercise if it is something you enjoy doing, whether it is walking, hiking, swimming or dancing. But check with your cardiac rehab team before trying an activity to make sure it is safe for you. Experiment with different activities to find what you like best.
Exercising with other people can also help you stay committed to an exercise program. Ask a friend to come along, or consider joining a walking or exercise group.
Get your family involved: Having their support can make cardiac rehab much easier. For example, if you are eating a salad at dinner while the rest of your family bites into juicy hamburgers, that can make it tough to stick with your dietary changes.
Instead, get your loved ones involved in planning and preparing healthy meals that everyone can enjoy. The healthy lifestyle changes you are making during cardiac rehab can benefit everyone. With your family’s support, you will never feel like you are in it alone.
Address emotional health issues: Anxiety and depression are common among people who have heart disease or have had a heart attack or heart surgery. Untreated, these issues can increase your risk of developing heart disease or make an existing condition worse.
If you experience sadness, anxiety or anger after a heart procedure, or you have withdrawn from activities you enjoy, talk with your doctor, who may refer you to a specialist who can help you address these issues. Also consider joining a support group for people who have had a heart attack or heart surgery.
Communicate with your team: Communicate with your rehab team openly and frequently. Before a visit, write down your symptoms, any questions or problems you have, or any changes in how you are feeling and when the changes started. Bring this list along so you can discuss it with your doctor. When you have answers, it is much easier to understand and stick to your treatment plan.