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Physical Therapy After a Heart Attack

A heart attack can be a frightening experience. Still, many people who’ve had a heart attack go on to enjoy full lives.

As part of your recovery, your doctor may recommend cardiac rehabilitation after a heart attack.

Physical therapy is an important part of the cardiac rehabilitation process. It might help you:

  • lower your risk of having another heart attack

  • improve your quality of life

  • increase your cardiovascular fitness

Read on to learn more about how physical therapy can help you recover from a heart attack and what to expect during cardiac rehabilitation.


What is cardiac physical therapy?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), anybody who has had a heart problem, like a heart attack, can benefit from cardiac rehabilitation. Most programs last about 3 months, but they can last anywhere from 2 to 8 months.

A cardiac rehabilitation program consists of:

  • exercise counseling and training

  • education for managing risk factors

  • counseling to reduce stress

Staying physically active after a heart attack is important for keeping your heart strong. Research from 2018 has found that increased physical activity in the first year after a heart attack is related to a reduced chance of death.

What are the benefits of cardiac physical therapy?

Research has found that cardiac rehabilitation can:

  • improve your health-related quality of life and functional capacity

  • lower your risk of future heart attack

  • improve your lung capacity

  • improve your heart health

  • strengthen your heart and body

  • help you maintain a moderate body weight

  • improve your blood pressure

  • improve your mental health

  • improve your ability to work

  • reduce your body pain

  • help you reduce stress

  • improve your energy and endurance

  • improve your exercise, dietary, and lifestyle habits

Cardiac rehabilitation isn’t just for heart attacks

Physical therapy and cardiac rehabilitation are an important part of the recovery for many types of heart surgery or cardiac events. Rehabilitation can help you bounce back from:

  • heart failure

  • heart valve surgery

  • coronary artery bypass

  • stent placement

  • heart transplant

  • chronic stable angina

  • acute coronary artery syndrome

What is the outlook after cardiac rehabilitation?

Attending cardiac rehabilitation gives you the best chance to maintain a high quality of life and prevent another heart attack.

  • A 2021 review indicates that participants may have a 13 percent lower chance of having another heart attack.

  • A 2016 study found that in a group of 4,929 people who experienced heart attacks, people who underwent cardiac rehabilitation lived significantly longer.

  • Studies have found that cardiac rehabilitation decreases your chances of dying in the 5 years after a cardiac event from any cause by about 32 percent.

Talk with your doctor about how cardiac rehabilitation can improve your recovery after a heart attack.


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