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Johns Hopkins Health - Making a Strong Case for Cardiac Rehab

Fall 2011
Issue No. 14

Making a Strong Case for Cardiac Rehab

Date: October 12, 2011

older man with weights

After a heart attack or heart surgery, your hardest working muscle needs to get back in shape. Stuart Russell, M.D., director of heart failure and transplant at Johns Hopkins, explains why cardiac patients should take advantage of rehabilitative care

What is cardiac rehabilitation?
Cardiac rehab is a combination of exercise training, muscle/strength training, plus teaching people how to lead heart-healthy lives. It includes dietary education as well as work on either a bike or a treadmill, and weightlifting. Each session is about 30 minutes to an hour. Cardiac rehab saves lives, keeps you out of the hospital and helps you feel better.

Can you tell me more about the benefits?
There is improvement in survival and reduction in heart attacks after rehab. In a study of 21,000-plus patients nationwide, cardiac rehab led to a 17 percent reduction in heart attacks after one year and a 47 percent reduction after two years. Older patients who went to rehab experienced an 88 percent reduction in hospital readmissions versus a 70 percent reduction in readmissions for those who didn’t do cardiac rehab. It improves exercise capacity and leads to a decreased incidence of depression.

How do I sign up?
Ask your doctor for a prescription. At Johns Hopkins, we use monitors that allow us to continuously measure your heart’s electrical activity while you’re exercising. We also test your aerobic capacity, so we can prescribe the right amount of exercise to help you reach fitness goals. Also, if you come to Johns Hopkins, you have the opportunity to participate in research trials that help us improve care. But whether you come to us or go elsewhere, you need to go.

Who needs it?
Cardiac rehab is for people who have suffered a heart attack, had a stent placed or undergone cardiac surgery. Insurance companies usually pay for 30 sessions after one of these cardiac events. Unfortunately, physicians send less than 20 percent of their cardiac patients to rehab.

To learn more about cardiac rehab, visit For more information or to make an appointment, call 877-546-1872.

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