Cardiac Rehab in Full Swing Again: Heart-Strengthening Exercise and Lifestyle Changes

When the threat of COVID-19 forced people to stay in their homes beginning in March, individuals who were enrolled in Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute’s Cardiac Rehabilitation program had to stop their three-day-a-week exercise regimen, supervised by cardiologists and monitored by nurses and exercise physiologists in the Cardiac Rehabilitation gyms on the Baptist Hospital and Mariners Hospital campuses.

The pause proved challenging for these individuals who were working to strengthen their hearts that had been damaged by a heart attack, weakened by congestive heart failure, or that were healing from a heart procedure, such as stent placement, or from cardiac surgery. Fortunately, Cardiac Rehabilitation reopened in June, and these patients have returned to the gyms and their cardiac rehab regimens.

“Supervised exercise for people with cardiovascular disease or heart failure, or who are recovering from a heart attack, intervention or surgery, is key to restoring cardiac function,” said Joshua Harris, M.D., a cardiologist and co-medical director of Cardiac Rehabilitation at Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute. “Studies have proven that exercise strengthens the heart muscle and is beneficial to preventing future cardiac events.”

ComprehensiveCardiac Rehabilitation

While supervisedand monitored exercise is included in most cardiac rehabilitation programs, theAmerican Heart Association, The American Association of Cardiovascular andPulmonary Rehabilitation, and the Agency for Health Care Policy and Researchhave found that patients also benefit from nutrition counseling, smokingcessation and other disease prevention education, stress management strategies andtips to minimize side effects and symptoms. They issued guidance on thisapproach in a paper publishedlast month.

“Our Cardiac Rehabilitation program offers these additional services and is customized for each of our patients,” said Institute Cardiologist Karl Lembcke, M.D., who oversees the program with Dr. Harris. “Our patients benefit from this comprehensive approach, which combines exercise instruction and monitoring with lifestyle and behavior modifications to reduce cardiovascular disease risk.”  

12-week CardiacRehab Program

Dr. Lembcke sayspatients’ cardiac rehab is tailored to their symptoms and condition, but many cometo the on-campus gym three days a week for 12 weeks and move through threephases of instruction and education:  

  • Phase 1 – Patients are seen while hospitalized and given information about the benefits of cardiac rehabilitation.
  • Phase 2 – Participants meet with their care team, including nutritionists, nurses and exercise physiologists, who assess their condition, symptoms and goals for rehabilitation. These cardiac rehabilitation patients follow a supervised and monitored exercise regimen, where exercise physiologists and a cardiologist track improvements and adjust exercises accordingly.
  • Phase 3 – Individuals continue to exercise on their own, without monitoring, but with the support and oversight of their care team for a limited time.

Dr. Harris saysmost patients complete cardiac rehabilitation and graduate after 12 weeks. He notesthat Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute’s graduation rate is higher thanthe national average for rehabilitation programs.

Reducing CardiovascularRisk

Both Dr.Harris and Dr. Lembcke say there’s no substitute for adopting lifestyle changesto reduce one’s risk of heart disease or a cardiac event.

“Exercise isone component that goes a long way,” Dr. Harris said. “You can’t change yourgenetic makeup or family or personal history, but you can exercise and improveyour lifestyle.”

“Quitting smoking, eating right and reducing stress to help manage body weight, blood pressure and cholesterol levels go hand-in-hand with exercise to ensuring a successful rehabilitation and adding healthy years on to your life,” Dr. Lembcke added. “It’s great for your heart and your health.”

COVID-19Safety Precautions    

CardiacRehabilitation gyms at Baptist Hospital and Mariners Hospital follow the safety precautions present now at all BaptistHealth facilities to keep patients and employees safe. These include enhancedcleaning of shared equipment and socially distanced machinery. We also limitour capacity in the workout areas and require mask use when not vigorouslyworking out. Patients will have their temperature taken upon entering thebuilding and be asked a series of questions to evaluate their risk of illness.Those found to be at risk of illness will be asked to reschedule their workout.To find out more, contact Cardiac Rehabilitation at Baptist Hospital at 786-596-6564or at Mariners Hospital at 305-434-3632.

Healthcare that Cares

With internationally renowned centers of excellence, 12 hospitals, more than 27,000 employees, 4,000 physicians and 200 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning across Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Baptist Health is an anchor institution of the South Florida communities we serve.

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