According to new research carried out by a team from Duke University, people who suffered heart attacks or undergo bypass surgery and got all 36 sessions of rehab are less likely to die or suffer a heart attack in the next three to four years than those who have fewer sessions.
Surprisingly only about one-fifth of heart patients try rehab. Of those who do, few get the sessions recommended by their doctor. The longer patients in the study participated in cardiac rehabilitation programs following heart-related hospitalizations, the better their outcomes were, eFitnessNow reports.
The goal of cardiac rehabilitation is to slow or even reverse the progression of cardiovascular disease by educating patients about their disease and having them follow a medically supervised exercise program.
Sessions are typically held two or three times a week for several months after a heart-related hospital discharge, but only about 10% to 20% of patients who could benefit from the programs actually attend them, rehab specialist David Prince, MD, of Montefiore Medical Center tells WebMD.
"What this study shows in a very convincing manner is that the more sessions a cardiac patient goes to, the better off they are," said Dr. Stanley Hazen, preventive cardiology and rehabilitation chief at the Cleveland Clinic.
He had no role in the study, which was led by Duke University scientists and published online Monday in Circulation, an American Heart Association journal. Federal grants paid for the work.
Say "rehab" and many people envision weak heart patients being pushed to run on a treadmill. Exercise is crucial, but "they don't need to be grimacing and jogging around the track," Hazen said. "It can be just a brisk walk or swimming or a stationary bike. That's the key: find something you enjoy and are willing to do," The Associated Press reorts.