Expert Health Articles

What is Pulmonary and Cardiac Rehab?

Dr. Bruce Bouts

Blanchard Valley Medical Associates

Pulmonary rehabilitation is a program designed for those who experience lung problems such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema, chronic bronchitis, pulmonary hypertension, asthma, pulmonary fibrosis, interstitial lung disease or lung cancer. Pulmonary rehabilitation typically includes exercise classes and provides education about lung diseases. Exercise classes are supervised and monitored by checking patient’s oxygen levels and blood pressures. Each exercise plan is individualized and is designed to help improve endurance and muscle strength. These improvements may decrease shortness of breath with activity and ease the ability to carry out daily activities. Educational classes include topics such as medications, using an inhaler, understanding and using oxygen therapy, breathing retraining, diet and nutrition, importance of exercise and other topics based on an individual need.    

Pulmonary rehabilitation can provide many benefits, such as improving quality of life, decreasing symptoms of the disease/condition, increasing stamina and decreasing shortness of breath. Individuals with chronic lung problems are more prone to depression, anxiety and other emotional issues. Pulmonary rehabilitation can also provide psychosocial support to improve general well-being.

Cardiac rehabilitation is also an exercise and education program designed for individuals with heart issues. These heart issues typically include the following diagnoses: heart attack, angina, angioplasty or stents, heart surgery for coronary bypass or valves, heart failure and heart transplantation. The exercise classes are supervised and monitored with patients wearing a heart monitor and also having their blood pressures checked. Education is provided regarding risk factors for heart disease and lifestyle modifications. 

Recent scientific studies have shown that people who complete cardiac rehabilitation after a cardiac event can increase their life expectancy by up to five years. Other benefits of cardiac rehabilitation include, lessening the chances of another heart attack, stopping or reversing damage to the blood vessels in the heart, lessening the physical and emotional effects of heart disease and improving confidence and well-being. Participation in cardiac rehabilitation can improve strength and stamina, allowing individuals to return to usual activities, including work, hobbies and regular exercise.

Both cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation are staffed with quality health care professionals who have been trained regarding the specific core components of cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation. Staff is typically comprised of a medical director, nurses, respiratory therapists and exercise physiologists. Dietitians, physical and occupational therapists and psychologists also provide support for these programs. 

Generally, cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation is covered by most health insurance companies, but it is helpful to check individual plans to determine copays and other requirements prior to beginning a program. If you are interested in attending cardiac or pulmonary rehabilitation talk with your physician.

Please talk with your physician if you are interested in attending cardiac or pulmonary rehabilitation.