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The heart survivor:
understanding rehabilitation after heart surgery

A HealthToday article shows how rehabilitation can give you a second life after coronary artery  bypass surgery.

BY Patricia Agunod-Cheng, M.D.

Being a medically supervised program, cardiac rehabilitation is designed to optimize the way a patient’s heart functions physically, psychologically, and socially. The program also aims to slow down the progression of atherosclerosis. It is offered to all cardiac patients, specifically those who have undergone coronary artery bypass or angioplasty, have had a heart attack, or have multiple risk factors and want to prevent heart disease.


The cardiac rehabilitation team is composed of the consultant director, other consultant physicians, nurses, psychiatrists, physical therapists, physiatrist, nutritionist, and pharmacist.


Gaining the strength

According to Dr. Carlos Esguerra, cardiac rehabilitation unit director of San Juan de Dios Hospital and The Medical City, the six components of cardiac rehabilitation include:

1. medical evaluation, including a thorough history, physical examination, and review of all diagnostic tests and cardiovascular procedures done

2. nutritional assessment

3. risk factor evaluation and management

4. psychosocial evaluation

5. physical activity

6. exercise and exercise prescription

There are also eight educational classes where the patient learns about the anatomy of the heart, risk factors, effects of exercise on the heart, stress management, pharmacology (the uses and effects of drugs), sex and the heart, and nutritional counseling.


The patient also learns about benefits of cardiac rehabilitation, which Dr. Esguerra says are:

  • - reduced symptoms such as chest pain, fatigue, and
  • - shortness of breath;
  • - decreased mortality by about 20 to 25 percent;
  • - fewer nonfatal heart attacks within a year;
  • - greater exercise performance;
  • - improved cholesterol profile;
  • - increased knowledge about heart disease and its management;
  • - psychosocial well-being translating to less anxiety and
  • - depression, increased self-efficiency;
  • - fewer hospitalizations; and
  • - faster return to work and leisure activities.


Symptoms to watch out for

Call your doctor or go to the emergency room when you feel chest pains, discomfort or tightness, shortness of breath, or you break out in a cold sweat. These may be signs of a heart attack or an unstable condition.

Signs of stroke include weakness or numbness especially if it occurs on one side of the body, slurred speech, confusion, imbalance, doubling of vision or difficulty seeing with either eye, among others. Also watch for palpitations, fever, and redness or fluid coming from the wound. Talk to your doctor if in doubt. 

Full article with additional information on Coronary Artery Bypass Surgery (CABG) and helpful exercises appears on February 2011 issue of HealthToday..

the heart survivor - health today philippines - 2011 - 02

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