Cardiac rehabilitation: Improving function and reducing risk

Jessica T. Servey*, Mark Stephens

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Cardiac rehabilitation is a comprehensive multidisciplinary program individually tailored to the needs of patients with cardiovascular disease. The overall goals focus on improving daily function and reducing cardiovascular risk factors. Cardiac rehabilitation includes interventions aimed at lowering blood pressure and improving lipid and diabetes mellitus control, with tobacco cessation, behavioral counseling, and graded physical activity. The physical activity component typically involves 36 sessions over 12 weeks, during which patients participate in supervised exercise under cardiac monitoring. There are also intensive programs that include up to 72 sessions lasting up to 18 weeks, although these programs are not widely available. Additional components of cardiac rehabilitation include counseling on nutrition, screening for and managing depression, and assuring up-to-date immunizations. Cardiac rehabilitation is covered by Medicare and recommended for patients following myocardial infarction, bypass surgery, and stent placement, and for patients with heart failure, stable angina, and several other conditions. Despite proven benefits in mortality rates, depression, functional capacity, and medication adherence, rates of referral for cardiac rehabilitation are suboptimal. Groups less likely to be referred are older adults, women, patients who do not speak English, and persons living in areas where cardiac rehabilitation is not locally available. Additionally, primary care physicians refer patients less often than cardiologists and cardiothoracic surgeons.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)37-43
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Family Physician
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2016
Externally publishedYes


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