Cardiac rehabilitation is the term used to describe the education, training and support for people who have had a heart attack or developed heart disease.
On this page, you can find information about:
- What is cardiac rehabilitation?
- What are the benefits of cardiac rehabilitation?
- Who is eligible for cardiac rehabilitation?
- Cardiac rehabilitation stages
- Heart support groups
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‘Cardiac’ refers to the heart and ‘rehabilitation’ means restoring to good health. Cardiac rehabilitation (also called cardiac rehab) is an important part of the recovery process for people who:
- have had a heart attack
- have had coronary angioplasty (stent)
- have had coronary bypass or other heart surgery
- have stable heart failure.
Cardiac rehabilitation services provide you and your whānau with education, information, physical activity and social support, helping you make essential changes to your lifestyle so you can return to as normal a life as possible after a heart event or heart disease diagnosis.
Cardiac rehabilitation programmes can:
- increase your understanding of your heart disease
- reduce your chance of having another heart event
- support you to make lifestyle changes
- improve quality of life for both you and your family/whanau
- improve your confidence to return to normal life activities.
Cardiac rehabilitation can help anyone who has had a heart attack or any cardiac event or procedure, either recently or in the past, for example: coronary artery bypass surgery, angioplasty (stent), stable or unstable angina, controlled heart failure or valve surgery. Your whānau members are also encouraged to participate with you throughout the cardiac rehabilitation process.
There are 3 phases to your cardiac rehabilitation.
Phase 1 – Inpatient rehabilitation
While you are in hospital you should receive information relevant to your heart event or procedure, a discharge plan and referral to attend a Phase 2 programme. You will also be given advice on lifestyle changes in order to reduce the risk of having another heart event.
Phase 2 – Outpatient rehabilitation
After discharge from hospital, Phase 2 consists of a supervised programme of 6–12 weeks' duration. The programme involves:
- exercise (done at home and/or in a group)
- education on medication, risk factors,
- healthy eating
- helping you to return to normal daily living activities, including work
- social support.
Phase 3 – Long-term maintenance
Phase 3 rehabilitation happens in the community. This stage of rehabilitation is on-going and can involve peer support, exercise sessions and support to make lifestyle changes to stay well with heart disease. Ideally you should take part in all 3 rehabilitation stages, but you can access the services at different times should you wish to.
You can find a cardiac rehabilitation programme and the phases of rehab they provide on this Heart Foundation directory.
There are a large number of community-run heart support groups throughout Aotearoa New Zealand. To find a support group near you, visit the this Heart Foundation directory.
Contact the Heart Foundation who may also be able to provide you with information on additional rehabilitation programmes available, eg, home-based services provided by Māori for Māori.
- Cardiac rehabilitation Heart Foundation, NZ
- Cardiac rehabilitation and education Te Whatu Ora Waitematā, NZ
Information for healthcare providers
Benatar J, Doolan-Noble F, McLachlan A. Cardiac rehabilitation in New Zealand – moving forward NZMJ 2016;129(1435):68-74.
Doimo S, Fabris E, Piepoli M et al. Impact of ambulatory cardiac rehabilitation on cardiovascular outcomes – a long-term follow-up study Eur Heart J. 2019;40(8):678-685.