Stacy M. Schmitz '98

Effectiveness of Cardiac Rehabilitation


More than 1.5 million Americans suffer from heart attacks each year. If we can improve the cardiovascular risk profile for these individuals, we can reduce risks of overall mortality by 25%. One approach to changing their risk profile is patient participation in cardiac rehabilitation programs. These programs generally begin after hospital discharge and average length is eight weeks. Cardiac rehabilitation programs strive to improve dietary habits, exercise capacity and habits, cholesterol levels, stress management and to restore optimal psychological and vocational status. A typical cardiac rehabilitation program offers dietary counseling and education, supervised exercise training, peer support and educational programs on coronary heart disease risk factors, medications, diet and stress management. The importance of health measures such as reading food labels, following low fat and sodium diets and not smoking are reinforced throughout the rehabilitation program. Special focus is also placed on the role of physical and exercise training in the treatment of cardiovascular disease. Cardiac rehabilitation programs are cost effective for the patient and they may decrease the need for cardiovascular medications and future treatments. The charge for an eight week cardiac rehabilitation program after hospital discharge is only $2200, while the charge for a bypass graft is $33,000 and angioplasty is $10,860. In general, participation in cardiac rehabilitation programs improve exercise capacity by approximately 33% to 50%, cholesterol awareness by 46% and resolve depression symptoms in 67% of the patients by program completion. A vast majority (91%) of cardiac rehabilitation graduates feel that it significantly improves their quality of life.

Faculty Mentor: Amy Olson, PhD, RD