Cardiac rehabilitation most effective immediately following heart attack

A healthy heart is important to us all and especially key for people that have a heart attack. I’ve added emphasis to the following article. [HT Marta]

October 27, 2011
Cardiac rehabilitation most effective immediately following heart attack

By Kathryn Sloniowski

Calgary, AB —New research from the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Medicine has found that patients who have experienced a heart attack are more likely to participate in, and complete a cardiac rehabilitation program when they have access to it within 14 days of hospital discharge. Cardiac rehabilitation is a series of educational and exercise components aimed at teaching participants how to live a healthier lifestyle, subsequently reducing risk factors for future heart related illness. Components include topics such as nutrition, physical fitness and mental wellness.

“The proven benefits of participation in cardiac rehabilitation are multi-faceted,” says Dr. James Stone, co-author of the study and member of the University’s Libin Cardiovascular Institute of Alberta. “They include living longer, less-frequent hospital admissions, requiring fewer heart procedures and having better control of the risk factors that cause coronary artery disease.”

The study, published in this month’s issue of Canadian Journal of Cardiology, included a total of 469 patients, all of whom were admitted to the Foothills Medical Centre between January 2007 and 2009. Half of the participants were part of a group that had traditional cardiac rehabilitation access (weeks to months), and half of the participants were part of a group that received early access to the program. Patients who were part of the early access group had a cardiac rehabilitation consultation scheduled for them, by nurses, within 4-14 days of discharge.

Results showed that participants who had early access to the program were twice as likely to finish the program than those who had to wait longer to access the program. Dr. Sandeep Aggarwal, co-author on the study and Medical Director of the Cardiac Wellness Institute of Calgary (CWIC), says it’s possible that patients who wait for the program are less likely to participate because they may want to move on with their lives after a heart attack.
“When patients get a call two to three months after a heart attack they may think the program won’t be beneficial to them so far away from the event. They may also have to go back to work or they may just get tired of waiting,” says Aggarwal, who is also a member of the Libin Institute.

Brian Gibbs completed the cardiac rehabilitation program after suffering a severe heart attack in 2010. “Without having participated in the program, I think I would still be wallowing in ignorance on how best to be responsible for my own health,” he says. “The program has taught me to be responsible for my health on every level.”

Cardiac rehabilitation programs are available in major cities across Canada. National standards for access to programs have recently changed, suggesting that cardiac patients enter a cardiac rehabilitation program within 30 days of hospital discharge. However, actual access to programs varies from weeks to months from hospital discharge. Calgary’s cardiac rehabilitation program, located at the Talisman Sports Centre, is one of the few programs of its kind in Canada that has a minimal wait for enrollment.

This study was funded by The Alberta Cardiac Access Collaboration, Alberta Health Services and the Government of Alberta’s Ministry of Health and Wellness.

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