More than 600,000 Americans die each year from heart disease, making it the leading cause of death for both men and women in the U.S. Our medical system is full of treatments to slow the progression of heart disease or reverse it altogether, including the use of medications and surgeries.
A new systematic review published by the Cochrane Collaboration earlier this year found that cardiac rehabilitation is an important component in improving the health and well-being of people with heart disease.
First, let’s define cardiac rehabilitation: It’s a form of therapy that includes exercise training, an education component and psychological support to strengthen the heart and encourage patients to make lifestyle changes that will help improve their condition.
Since the mid‐2000s, Cochrane has published six separate systematic reviews about the effectiveness of cardiac rehabilitation for patients with different types or stages of heart disease (such as immediately following a heart attack, heart surgery or heart failure) or in different settings (such as hospitals or homes.) This year, researchers combined all six systematic reviews into one mega-review that consolidates all of the evidence on cardiac rehab.
In total, the six reviews included 148 randomized, controlled trials and more than 98,000 participants with heart disease. On the whole, the evidence showed that participating in cardiac rehab reduced the risk of future hospital admissions and improved patients’ health-related quality of life.
The review also found that home‐ and hospital-based programs yielded equal improvements, and that exercise was the key component to improving health outcomes.
The bottom-line is that cardiac rehab is an important component of treating heart disease for patients of all types, and should be regularly prescribed alongside other treatments.