Recovering from a heart attack or cardiac surgery takes a great deal of time, patience, persistence, and dedication. Nevertheless, the outlook for many patients who make this commitment is usually very good, with most patients finding that they are able to return to a fairly normal life further down the line. A cardiac rehabilitation program is one of the best ways of helping you to return to an optimal state of health after a cardiac event and one of the key elements of this program will be physical therapy.
Physical therapy is a branch of rehabilitative health in which specially-designed exercises and equipment are used to help patients to become stronger and more mobile. It is recommended in a variety of circumstances, including following surgeries and serious health events. Exercise plays a crucial role in your recovery following a heart attack or heart surgery. In fact, doing some form of physical activity or exercise on most days of the week can help to increase your ability to perform daily activities more easily, as well as having a range of benefits for your general health.
The initial goals of physical therapy are to:
Help you move safely after surgery so that you protect your incisions.
Teach your family/home caregivers how to help you do basic day to day things safely.
Strengthen your muscles so that your body becomes stronger.
Help minimize and manage swelling.
Prevent blood clots from forming.
Increase the rate at which you heal (facilitated by increased circulation).
Monitor your activity levels so that you don’t push yourself too hard too quickly.
Increase your activity level slowly and safely when you are discharged back home.
The health benefits of physical therapy as part of cardiac rehabilitation include:
Improved cholesterol levels
Lower blood pressure
Improved blood sugar control
Improve your strength, balance, and energy levels
Reduced anxiety and depression
Help you to sleep better
Reduced dependence on pain medications
Reduced dependence on cardiac medications
Improved sense of wellbeing
Fewer visits to medical professionals
Better outlook on your ability to cope following your cardiac surgery or heart attack
Physical therapy for cardiac rehabilitation can begin immediately following your cardiac event, sometimes even while you are still in the ICU. This is because there are even gentle, bed-based exercises that you can do that will aid in your recovery. Your physical therapist will continue to support you by adapting your exercises in line with your ability to tolerate them. However, the goal will always be to push yourself to achieve as much as possible during each session.
Physical therapy isn’t the only element of cardiac rehabilitation, which is actually a complex treatment plan. Two other equally important parts include:
Education. Your cardiac rehabilitation team will help you to understand your risk factors for further cardiac issues and help you to make the right choices to minimize the likelihood of experiencing them. This could involve making changes to your diet, reducing your alcohol consumption, or giving up smoking.
Counseling to reduce stress. Stress is proven to be bad for our heart health. This is because persistently high-stress levels or even single episodes of severe stress can make us develop unhealthy habits that then increase our risk of developing health problems that can contribute towards cardiovascular events – such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and Type 2 diabetes.
If you would like to find out more about cardiac rehabilitation and what is involved in this complex program of treatment, don’t hesitate to speak to our knowledgeable team.