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  health > heart > story pageAIDSAgingAlternative MedicineCancerChildrenDiet & FitnessMenWomen

Cardiac rehab helps mind and heart


November 11, 1999
Web posted at: 1:47 p.m. EST (1847 GMT)

From Medical Correspondent Rhonda Rowland

(CNN) -- Cardiac rehabilitation may help prevent a recurrence of heart disease because it improves a patient's psychological state, as well as physical health, according to researchers at the American Heart Association (AHA) meeting in Atlanta this week.

Cardiac rehabilitation is generally recommended after heart surgeries such as bypass, angioplasty, or valve repair. Patients workout under the supervision and guidance of a trained exercise physiologist.

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    Source: WebMD

    These experts make sure the patients' heart vital signs are closely monitored during exercise to make sure they don't over do it.

    Year after year, studies are released at the AHA meeting showing the physical benefits of cardiac rehabilitation. Rehab has been shown to help patients get back on their feet, lower blood pressure, boost good cholesterol and reduce the risk of a second heart problem.

    But the big news out of this year's meeting was evidence that cardiac rehab can also help reduce depression, anger and other psychological problems that often follow a heart attack or surgery.

    The findings were reported by Dr. Carl Lavie of Ochsner Medical Institute.

    Despite the new information and overwhelming data supporting the benefits of rehabilitation, only a small percentage of patients receive it.

    Although insurance policies vary nationwide, cardiac rehabilitation is not covered by many, and others have time restrictions on the amount of therapy covered.

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    "They might only cover from two weeks to four weeks, and not really give us enough time to help the patient to recover as well as they should," said Sandra Redderoth of the cardiac rehabilitation program at St. Joseph's Hospital in Atlanta.

    Redderoth said a patient needs a minimum of three months of rehab to get the necessary benefits.

    But insurance companies are not the only barrier to treatment, doctors often don't refer patients to rehab programs.

    "All across our country the rates of referral to a cardiac prevention and rehab program are quite low, they're in the range of 5 to 10 percent. So I think physicians can do a whole lot better," said Emory University cardiologist Lawrence Sperling.

    Dr. Jonathan Altschuler of Washington Hospital Center said he thinks some doctors don't make the rehab referrals because of the time it takes, not because they don't believe in the treatment.

    "You have to sit down with the patient, spend 10-15 minutes talking to them about why it's beneficial, fill out the paper work. I think it's a time issue Altschuler said.

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