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Cardiac rehabilitation, also called cardiac rehab, helps patients who have had heart issues recover by teaching them an individualized plan for safely improving physical health and identifying and managing their risk factors. 

Sue Palo, Director of Rehabilitation & Community Services at St. Francis Hospital & Heart Center®, answers frequently asked questions about cardiac rehab.


What are the features of a cardiac rehab program?

A dedicated team of experts work closely with each patient to create a medically supervised cardiac rehabilitation program that emphasizes the importance of both physical and psychological health while also maintaining quality of life. 

Recovering from a heart attack or other type of cardiac event can be frightening. Patients often feel depressed and lost about how to get back to their daily life and routines. The cardiac rehab program includes group exercise classes and support groups so patients know that they are not alone in working toward their goals.

Cardiac rehabilitation is a comprehensive therapy that combines: 

  • Prescribed exercise training
  • Cardiac risk factor modification
  • Education on heart health
  • Diet and nutrition counseling 
  • Psychosocial support that helps patients after a cardiac event

Who benefits from cardiac rehab?

Cardiac rehabilitation is geared toward patients who have heart disease.

  • Heart attack
  • Heart failure
  • Use of ventricular assist device
  • Angina
  • Heart or heart-lung transplant
  • Heart valve repair or replacement
  • Coronary artery bypass grafting surgery
  • Coronary artery angioplasty with or without stent placement 


What are the different phases of cardiac rehab?

Cardiac rehabilitation is categorized into phases depending on a patient’s condition as well as a doctor’s recommendation for the safest course of therapy.

Phase 1: Inpatient

The initial phase of cardiac rehabilitation occurs when the patient is still in the hospital. For most people, a health care provider will recommend that they start cardiac rehabilitation in an outpatient facility shortly after their discharge home. 
Phase 2:  Outpatient

The second phase of cardiac rehabilitation typically includes 36 one-hour exercise sessions that are offered two to three times per week. The patient is ready for the third phase when this program has been completed.

Phase 3: Maintenance

During the third phase of cardiac rehabilitation, patients are now able to exercise on their own. They can choose to exercise at home, at a local gym or at a rehabilitation center that offers a maintenance program.


What type of cardiac rehab exercises are prescribed?

Exercises vary according to a patient’s incoming fitness level but may include:

  • Aerobic exercises such as walking, riding a stationary bike, rowing machine, elliptical or step trainer.
  • Activities to strengthen the muscles such as resistance bands, free weights or weight training machines.


Who oversees the cardiac rehab program? Is it safe?

Cardiac rehabilitation group exercise sessions are supervised by clinical staff such as registered nurses and exercise physiologists. An onsite physician is immediately available in the event of an emergency. 

Patients are given their own individualized exercise prescriptions that are safe and appropriate for keeping them in their own prescribed training zone. Patients begin with an exercise program then are gradually increased in intensity and/or duration of exercise according to their response, fitness level and medical history. 

A patient’s heart rate and blood pressure is checked regularly to make sure that they are safe while exercising.

Health care providers such as doctors, nurses, exercise physiologists and dieticians offer expertise and guidance in the lifestyle modifications necessary to reduce the patient’s risk of future cardiac events.

What is The DeMatteis Center for Cardiac Research and Education?

The DeMatteis Center for Cardiac Research and Education (Greenvale, NY) is part of St. Francis Hospital & Heart Center®—ranked one of the top hospitals in the country for cardiology. The DeMatteis Center offers the largest medically staffed cardiac fitness and rehabilitation program on Long Island and is one of the largest hospital-based programs in the country. 

The center has achieved national certification from the American Association for Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation. 

Patients who come to The DeMatteis Center receive the highest level of cardiac care to help them heal and are provided with helpful tools to continue practicing good heart health. In addition to cardiac rehabilitation, the center also offers lifestyle modification programs that can assist a patient in reducing health risks.

Programs include:

  • Outpatient nutrition
  • Managing high blood pressure           
  • Weight management
  • Diabetes education
  • Stress management
  • Meditation
  • Smoking cessation
  • Stretch and tone classes
  • Moving for balance
  • Chair exercise
  • Additional lectures on various health topics

Contact The DeMatteis Center at 516-629-2000 for more information. 


Care across Long Island 

Catholic Health also offers cardiac rehabilitation at Good Samaritan University Hospital (West Islip, NY) and St. Charles Hospital (Port Jefferson, NY).

Learn more about Catholic Health’s cardiac rehabilitation services.

Call 866-MY-LI-DOC (866-695-4362) to find a Catholic Health physician near you.

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