Cardiac rehabilitation

Cardiac rehabilitation is a programme that supports your recovery and ongoing wellbeing after a heart event or heart disease diagnosis. It reduces your risk of future heart events and improves your quality of life. Find out how and where to access it.

Cardiac rehabilitation (cardiac rehab) is a programme of education, training and support for people who have had a heart event and their family/whānau and support people.

What are the benefits of cardiac rehabilitation?

Cardiac rehabilitation will:

  • Reduce the likelihood of readmission following your surgery or heart event
  • Lower your risk of future heart events
  • Improve your quality of life

The main aim is to get you back to as full a life as possible by promoting your health and keeping you well after you leave hospital.

Who is cardiac rehabilitation for?

Cardiac rehab can be beneficial if you:

  • Have had a heart attack
  • Have had coronary angioplasty (stent)
  • Have had coronary bypass surgery or another type of heart surgery
  • Have stable heart failure

Cardiac rehabilitation can also help people who have other heart conditions such as angina, cardiomyopathy and congenital heart disease.

When should I start cardiac rehabilitation?

Ideally you should start your cardiac rehabilitation within a few weeks of your discharge from hospital. But even if you're some time past that, cardiac rehabilitation will still be of benefit. It's never too late to start.

How do I access cardiac rehabilitation?

You may have received information about cardiac rehab from a cardiac nurse specialist during your stay in hospital. A nurse may call once you're home to explain what cardiac rehabilitation is and how you can access it in your area.

You can also ask your doctor about it at your first follow-up GP or cardiac outpatient appointment.

What do I do if no-one contacts me?

If nobody has contacted you or discussed cardiac rehabilitation with you after four to six weeks of discharge, it is important you follow it up. In the first instance contact your GP for help or contact the cardiology department at the hospital. If you are still having trouble accessing rehabilitation in your area you can contact us.

You can find contact details for your local hospital cardiac rehabilitation in our HeartHelp Directory.

What should I expect at cardiac rehabilitation?

The information covered in cardiac rehabilitation is likely to include the following topics.

  • Exercise that can be done in the group and at home
  • Returning to your normal activities
  • Nutrition, healthy eating and other lifestyle changes
  • Mental wellbeing and social support
  • Ways to reduce your risk of a subsequent event.

The way in which cardiac rehabilitation is provided varies around the country. In some areas it is a one day workshop, in other areas it may be a number of sessions over three to four weeks. In some, more remote parts of the country, it is provided as a one-to-one service. Unfortunately in some parts of the country, people currently have no access to cardiac rehabilitation. If this is the case, discuss your approach to exercise and nutrition with your GP.

You may hear people talk about different phases of cardiac rehabilitation. Phase one is the information you will receive from your care team in hospital. Phase two is the programme outlined above which should occur soon after hospital discharge.

What do I do once I've finished cardiac rehabilitation?

Heart disease is a lifelong condition, so once you have completed your cardiac rehabilitation sessions with the hospital, it's important you continue with lifestyle changes and medication to keep you well and reduce your risk of future events. This long term approach to exercise and lifestyle changes is considered Phase three of cardiac rehabilitation.

Lots of people find it helpful to join a community cardiac support group. You can find your closest local cardiac support in our HeartHelp Directory.