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Cardiac rehabilitation is a program that focuses on a cardiac patient's health. Patients going through these types of programs are usually monitored by medical professionals, and often learn about ways to improve their lifestyles. Cardiac rehabilitation exercises usually help strengthen a patient's heart as well as his body. Cardiac rehabilitation exercises often consist of both aerobic and strength training exercises.
Cardiac rehabilitation exercises often begin either after a patient is referred by his doctor or after a medical procedure, such as stent placement or heart surgery. At first, the exercise is very low in intensity. Patients in the hospital, for example, are often encouraged to walk around the halls.
For at least the first few weeks of cardiac rehabilitation exercises, a patient's vital signs are usually monitored by doctors, nurses, or physical therapists. Blood pressure and heart rate will be recorded. Whether a patient's heart rate is regular or irregular will also typically be noted.
Aerobic exercise, such as walking or cycling, make up the majority of cardiac rehabilitation exercises. These will usually be performed a few times a week for a half hour to an hour. This can vary, however, depending on what is considered to be a safe level of exercise for a particular patient. Along with helping a patient lose weight, aerobic exercise will also help strengthen heart muscles. Like any other muscle, the more a heart is exercised, the stronger it will get.
Other muscles in the body can be toned with strength training, or weight training. This therapy can include activities such as weight lifting or other resistance exercises. A patient will usually begin this type of exercise a few weeks after he starts aerobic cardiac rehabilitation exercises. As with an aerobic exercise regimen, patients usually start small and increase the intensity when their doctor believes they are ready. For example, a patient could start by lifting five pound weights and add more weight as he gets stronger.
Most doctors recommend that patients stick with a cardiac rehabilitation program for a few months to a year. As the patient progresses and becomes stronger, he can then start doing more difficult or intense exercises. Additionally, he may also start exercising at home more. Eventually, he may not need the supervision of medical professionals when exercising.
When exercising, either supervised or unsupervised, cardiac patients are usually advised to be aware of any dangerous symptoms. Any exercises that cause dizziness or difficulty breathing, for example, should be avoided. Also, in the event that any chest pain or discomfort is felt, a patient should stop exercising and notify his doctor as soon as possible.
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