Recovery from a heart attack or heart surgery only just begins when you leave the hospital. It's important to take steps to improve your heart health to avoid another heart attack or cardiac event. These steps include eating healthy, exercising and quitting smoking (if you smoke).
Your physician and nurses will talk to you about your activities after your heart attack or surgery.
Your physician may recommend a cardiac rehabilitation program. This helps you maintain your fitness after you've recovered from surgery. Many cardiac rehabilitation programs have three phases.
- Phase I: Education while you're in the hospital, including a class for family members.
- Phase II: This phase usually begins about four to six weeks after a heart attack or major surgery and includes monitored exercise, education about a heart-healthy diet, managing your heart disease risk factors and counseling. Requires physician referral and often is covered by health insurance.
- Phase III: Helps you maintain your new fitness level and includes medical-supervised exercise. If you've never had a heart problem, but are at high risk because of your lifestyle or family history, you can participate in phase III to help prevent heart problems from developing.
During a cardiac rehabilitation program, you'll learn the importance of aerobic exercise, proper diet and controlling your stress.
- Aerobic exercise strengthens your heart and helps it pump more effectively. For heart health, 20 to 30 minutes of exercise at least three times a week is recommended. Cardiac rehabilitation staff works with you to develop an exercise program tailored to your needs. You're closely monitored while you exercise on a treadmill, stationary bicycle, rowing machine and other equipment during the program.
- A registered dietitian shows you how to make heart-healthy food choices at home, in the grocery store and in restaurants.
- Cardiac rehabilitation staff members provide a stress management seminar to help you learn techniques to reduce stress, which is a factor in many illnesses.