By Connor Knapp

Each year, over one million Americans will have a heart event, and more than 30 percent will have a second and potentially fatal one. However, there is hope. Cardiac rehabilitation reduces the risk of a future cardiac event by stabilizing, slowing, or even reversing the progression of cardiovascular disease. Clinical research has shown cardiac rehabilitation reduces mortality by over 50 percent, compared with those patients who do not participate.

A highly individualized approach. Cardiac rehabilitation offers a multifaceted and highly individualized approach to optimize the overall physical, nutritional, and mental health of people with heart-related problems. Cardiac rehabilitation is a physician supervised program consisting of prescription exercise training and education, heart healthy nutrition education, and healthy mindset training focused on areas such as stress management, quality sleep, health-goal setting, and tobacco cessation.

Covered by Medicare and commercial insurers. A top recommendation by the American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association, cardiac rehabilitation is covered by Medicare and commercial health insurers for individuals who meet one of the following criteria: a heart attack in the last 12 months, ever had open heart or coronary bypass surgery, ever had the placement of a heart stent, ever had a heart valve repair or replacement, have been diagnosed with heart failure with low ejection fraction, have been diagnosed with heart disease and experience symptoms like shortness of breath or chest discomfort during physical activity, or have ever undergone heart or heart-lung transplant.

Overwhelming health benefits and outcomes. The health benefits of participating in a cardiac rehabilitation program are numerous and comprehensive. Clinical research has shown that participation in cardiac rehabilitation improves the health and recovery of patients, reduces all-cause mortality by 25 percent, decreases mortality up to five years after participation, reduces 10 year all-cause mortality after open heart surgery, reduces heart disease symptoms like shortness of breath, chest discomfort, and fatigue, reduces recurrent heart attacks, increases exercise performance, improves cholesterol and blood pressure, increases knowledge about cardiac disease management, enhances ability to perform daily activities, improves quality of life, and increases ability to return to work or engage in leisure activities. Other health related issues like diabetes, weight loss, and anxiety can also be addressed as part of a comprehensive cardiac rehabilitation program.

Request a Referral! Despite all of the benefits of cardiac rehabilitation, referral and participation rates are consistently low, due in large part to a lack of strong recommendation from physicians and lack of patient knowledge of the importance of cardiac rehabilitation. If you or a loved one meet any of the criteria for cardiac rehabilitation, don’t wait! Request a referral for cardiac rehabilitation from your primary care physician or cardiologist. Participation in cardiac rehabilitation can mean the difference between a full recovery after a heart event and years of further complications and future events.

Connor Knapp is Director of Sterling Heart Care, located at 4330 Maple Road, Amherst 14226. Learn more at, or call 716-529-3131.