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Cardiac rehabilitation (cardiac rehab)

Cardiac rehabilitation (cardiac rehab) is a program of exercise, education and counselling designed to help you recover after a heart attack or other heart conditions. This personalized program will help you regain your strength, prevent your condition from getting worse and reduce your risk of having heart problems in the future.

If you have had a heart attack, or heart surgery or have heart disease, your doctor may recommend you join a cardiac rehabilitation program. Talk to your doctor about how to find a program in your area, or contact your public health department or hospital. The Canadian Association of Cardiac Rehabilitation also has a cardiac rehabilitation program directory to help you find a program in your community.

Your rehabilitation team
A cardiac rehabilitation team is usually made up of professionals with specialized areas of expertise who work together to improve your physical and emotional health. Rehabilitation programs vary depending on your needs and where you live, but your team may include a physician, exercise physiologist, nurse, occupational therapist, physical educator, dietitian, psychiatrist or psychologist, physiotherapist and social worker.

What’s involved?
Programs vary, but they generally include:

  • Medical assessment  evaluating your physical abilities, limitations and risk factors.
  • Physical activity  exercises to improve your cardiovascular and muscular fitness.
  • Lifestyle education  expert advice about diet and nutrition.
  • Psychosocial support  strategies for managing depression, anxiety and returning to work.

The benefits
Cardiac rehabilitation will help you regain your strength and independence, and overcome your anxieties and fears. You’ll learn how to make heart-healthy living a part of your life – for the rest of your life. And along the way, you’ll also meet a support group of professionals and people just like you dealing with the same challenges you face each day.

Learn more
Living well with heart disease: a guide for people with coronary artery diseaseRead our brochure Living well with heart disease: a guide for people with coronary artery disease. This book is a comprehensive guide for heart patients like you, your family and friends to improve your success of recovery, understand the diagnosis and treatment you will receive and make healthy changes to your lifestyle. It is Canadian, current and has been approved by Heart and Stroke Foundation medical experts. You can also order the booklet online.

Read the Canadian Guidelines for Cardiac Rehabilitation and Cardiovascular Disease Prevention to learn more about cardiac rehabilitation and heart disease prevention. The Guidelines are a comprehensive, evidence-based resource for cardiovascular chronic disease care written for clinical, program, educational and research settings.

Last modified: January 2015
Last reviewed: August 2011