Oct. 28, 2011

Cardiac rehabilitation most effective immediately following heart attack

New research from the Faculty of Medicine
Dr. James Stone, pictured with rehabilitation patient Brian Gibbs (in red), was co-author of the study that is published in this month’s issue of Canadian Journal of Cardiology.

Dr. James Stone, pictured with rehabilitation patient Brian Gibbs (in red).

Research from the Faculty of Medicine has found that patients who have experienced a heart attack are more likely to participate in, and complete a cardiac rehabilitation program when they have access to it within 14 days of hospital discharge.

Cardiac rehabilitation is a series of educational and exercise components—including nutrition, physical fitness and mental wellness—aimed at teaching participants how to live a healthier lifestyle, subsequently reducing risk factors for future heart related illness.

“The proven benefits of participation in cardiac rehabilitation are multi-faceted,” says Dr. James Stone, co-author of the study and member of the university’s Libin Cardiovascular Institute of Alberta. “They include living longer, less-frequent hospital admissions, requiring fewer heart procedures and having better control of the risk factors that cause coronary artery disease.”

The study, published in this month’s issue of Canadian Journal of Cardiology, included a total of 469 patients admitted to the Foothills Medical Centre between January 2007 and 2009. Half had traditional cardiac rehabilitation access (weeks to months), and half received early access to the program, with a consultation scheduled within four to 14 days of discharge.

Early access participants were twice as likely to finish the program over those who had to wait longer. Dr. Sandeep Aggarwal, co-author on the study and medical director of the Cardiac Wellness Institute of Calgary (CWIC), says it’s possible that patients who wait for the program are less likely to participate because they may want to move on with their lives after a heart attack.

“When patients get a call two to three months after a heart attack they may think the program won’t be beneficial to them so far away from the event. They may also have to go back to work or they may just get tired of waiting,” says Aggarwal, who is also a member of the Libin Institute.

Cardiac rehabilitation programs are available in major cities across Canada. National standards have recently changed, suggesting that patients enter a cardiac rehabilitation program within 30 days of discharge. However, actual access to programs varies from weeks to months from hospital discharge.

Calgary’s cardiac rehabilitation program, at the Talisman Sports Centre, is one of the few programs of its kind in Canada that has a minimal wait for enrollment.

This study was funded by The Alberta Cardiac Access Collaboration, Alberta Health Services and the Government of Alberta’s Ministry of Health and Wellness.