By: Chris Schumann, UAB Medical West Cardiac Rehabilitation Manager

Happy Heart Month! February is recognized as American Heart Month, which means it is the perfect time to learn about heart health and how to prevent heart disease. After all, heart disease and the conditions that lead to it can happen at any age. 

Did you know heart disease is the leading cause of death in the world? In fact, the CDC reports that one person dies every 37 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease, and about 647,000 Americans die from heart disease each year. These statistics may be startling, but the good news is you can take control of your heart health. 

The importance of heart health

Our hearts have the big responsibility of keeping our bodies functioning properly. The heart beats about 2.5 billion times over the average lifetime and pushes blood to every part of the body. This steady flow carries oxygen, fuel, hormones, other compounds, and a host of essential cells with it while whisking away the waste products of metabolism. 

While a poor diet, lack of exercise, infection, smoking, and unlucky genes can hamper the heart from doing its job, having a healthy heart and lifestyle reduces your chances of dying prematurely and reduces the chance of having a cardiac event.  

Healthy heart habits

Whether you have a healthy heart or are recovering from a cardiac event, practice these healthy heart habits to keep your ticker going strong for years to come: 

  • Choose healthy food and drinks
  • Keep a healhty weight
  • Don't smoke and avoid second-hand smoke
  • Get regular physical activity

Improve heart health with cardiac rehabilitation

If you are struggling to improve on your own, cardiac rehabilitation provides a medically-supervised environment to improve your heart health. After all, not everyone knows how to exercise safely, eat healthier, lower stress, and assess if their medications are doing what they are supposed to do – lower blood pressure, cholesterol, control heart rhythm, keep fluids off, etc. 

What to expect from cardiac rehabilitation

Cardiac rehabilitation involves supervised sessions, including exercise training, education related to heart disease management, and encouragement throughout the program. Attending cardiac rehabilitation regularly is very important. Cardiac rehabilitation programming is typically 3 days per week for about 8-12 weeks. This format has been shown to be successful in fostering positive health behavior change and outcomes. 

The goal of cardiac rehabilitation

The goal of cardiac rehabilitation is for patients to see improvement in their quality of life, strength and endurance, blood pressure and cholesterol levels, bodyweight, and overall emotional status and sense of wellbeing. Some benefits of cardiac rehabilitation include: 

  • Decreased risk of a heart attack
  • Improvement in exercise tolerance
  • Improvement in symptoms
  • Reduced stress
  • Improvement in lipid levels
  • Reduction in cigarette use
  • Longer lifespan

Cardiac rehabilitation at UAB Medical West

At UAB Medical West, we offer a customized outpatient program featuring exercise and education designed to help you improve your cardiovascular health and help you recover from heart-related conditions. We will help you adopt heart healthy lifestyle changes to improve your health and quality of life, prevent future health problems and even help you live longer. 

Learn more about cardiac rehabilitation at UAB Medical West 

Call 205-996-WEST to schedule an appointment for an evaluation with a UAB Medical West provider. We are here to serve the communities of Hoover, Bessemer, McCalla, and Vance, and more!