Heart Tune-Up Boosts Longevity

Cardiac rehabilitation helps patients live longer

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Cardiac rehabilitation doesn't just help patients in the short term. New research suggests those who engage in a heart rehab program also tend to live longer.

Cardiac rehab is a medically-supervised program generally comprised of exercise, counseling and heart-friendly education for individuals with cardiovascular problems, such as after heart surgery or a heart attack.

"Exercise regularly to protect your heart."

Alison Beauchamp, PhD, a senior research fellow from Australia's Heart Research Centre at Royal Melbourne Hospital, determined that individuals with little participation in a heart rehab program were more likely to die than those actively engaged in cardiac rehabilitation.

Beauchamp, who previously worked as a cardiac rehabilitation and heart failure program coordinator, reviewed the records of patients over a 14-year period for the retrospective cohort study.

The patient records that she reviewed included 544 Australian men and women who were eligible for heart rehab following a heart attack, coronary artery bypass surgery or angioplasty, a surgical procedure to widen blocked arteries. Initially the patients were followed for four months after hospital release to determine cardiac rehab participation.

Researchers then monitored the patients for 14 years by reviewing Australian National Death Index records to determine how many patients died over the course of the study.

Of the patients tracked, 281, or 52 percent, attended at least one heart rehab session. Both those who attended rehab and those who didn't tended to be similar with few differences in family history, diagnosis, age and gender.

After adjustments investigators found patients who skipped heart rehab had a 58 percent greater risk of dying from any cause over the long-term.

Individuals who attended fewer than 25 percent of rehab sessions also were found to have a mortality risk that was about two and a half times that of patients who went to at least 75 percent of rehab sessions. That number was lowered slightly – to twice the risk – when adjusted for current smoking.

Researchers noted that in addition to encouraging cardiac rehab, doctors and clinicians should provide smoking cessation support to heart patients.

The study was recently published in journal Heart, a British Medical Journal publication.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
December 4, 2012
Last Updated:
February 25, 2013