What is cardiac rehabilitation? - Heart 2 Heart Cardiac physiotherapy

Do you have cardiovascular disease, or have you had heart surgery? Do you have breathlessness, fatigue or chest pain that is stopping you from doing the things that you love? This blog outlines how cardiac rehabilitation could benefit you.

Knowledge is power!

Experiencing a cardiac event or being diagnosed with heart disease can be frightening and upsetting for patients and their families. But we know that with good education, information and support they can go on to manage their conditions effectively. This should be the goal of a high-quality cardiac rehabilitation programme.

Participating and completing a high-quality cardiac rehabilitation programme can increase life expectancy by up to five years.


What is cardiac rehabilitation?

“Cardiac rehabilitation is a highly effective and well-established model of care for the secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease which remains the leading cause of death worldwide and in Ireland” – Irish Association of Cardiac Rehabilitation.

Cardiac rehabilitation is an evidence-based programme for supporting individuals to self-manage chronic disease.

The aim of cardiac rehabilitation is to improve the physical and emotional health, and quality of life for individuals following a cardiac event.

It includes:

  • Individualised exercise prescription to improve cardiovascular fitness safely.
  • Education about heart disease.
  • Advice about improving lifestyle risk factors.


A high-quality cardiac rehabilitation service should not just be exercised-focused.

It should actively review medical therapies, involve intensive risk factor management including advice about diet, exercise, tobacco cessation, and psychological health. Comprehensive programmes that address 6 or more risk factors are effective at reducing all-cause mortality.

Of the four risk factor goals most strongly associated with long-term survival, three were lifestyle variables (not smoking, physical activity, and healthy diet), and the fourth variable (systolic blood pressure) was influenced by health behaviours.

Lifestyle risk factor management is therefore a crucial component for cardiac rehabilitation programmes.

Learn about the risk factors of heart disease

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Benefits of cardiac rehabilitation

  • Improved health outcomes: High quality cardiac rehabilitation programmes can reduce all-cause mortality risk by 26%.
  • Increased aerobic exercise capacity: small increases in cardiorespiratory fitness are associated with considerably lower adverse cardiovascular event rates.
  • Reduction in cardiovascular risk factors: cardiac rehabilitation can lower LDL cholesterol, increase HDL cholesterol, support weight management goals, help regulate blood sugar levels and maintain normal blood pressure.
  • Reduced hospital readmissions: those who participate in cardiac rehabilitation experience lower frequency of hospital readmissions and reduced length of stay.
  • Improved psychological and psychosocial wellbeing: cardiac rehabilitation can help reduce anxiety and depression when combined with stress management and psychological support from trained professionals.
  • Improved myocardial perfusion: cardiac rehabilitation can increase blood flow to the heart muscle in those with coronary heart disease.
  • Improvement In symptom burden: cardiac rehabilitation can reduce the frequency and severity of symptoms and reduce the impact of these symptoms on daily life.

Learn more about our cardiac rehabilitation programmes



If your heart condition is limiting your energy levels or preventing you from achieving your goals, book a consultation with one of our cardiac physiotherapists to learn which programme would suit you best.

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Written by James Murray, Cardiac Physiotherapist.


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