Cardiac Rehabilitation: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

The heart

Cardiac rehabilitation is a program for people who have a heart problem, such as a heart attack, heart failure, or a heart valve disease. The program includes exercise, lifestyle changes, education, and emotional support. Cardiac rehab can help you improve the quality of your life through better overall health. It can help you lose weight and feel better about yourself.

On your cardiac rehab team, you may have your doctor, a nurse specialist, a dietitian, and a physiotherapist. They will design your cardiac rehab program specifically for you. You will learn how to reduce your risk for heart problems, how to manage stress, and how to eat a heart-healthy diet. By the end of the program, you will be ready to maintain a healthier lifestyle on your own.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor or nurse call line if you think you are having a problem with your medicine. You will get more details on the specific medicines your doctor prescribes.
  • Weigh yourself every day if your doctor tells you to. Watch for sudden weight gain. Weigh yourself on the same scale with the same amount of clothing at the same time of day.
  • Plan your meals so that you are eating heart-healthy foods.
    • Eat a variety of foods daily. Fresh fruits and vegetables and whole-grains are good choices.
    • Limit your fat intake, especially saturated and trans fat.
    • Limit salt (sodium).
    • Increase fibre in your diet.
    • Limit alcohol.
  • Learn how to take your pulse so that you can track your heart rate during exercise.
  • Always check with your doctor before you begin a new exercise program.
  • Warm up before you exercise and cool down afterward for at least 15 minutes each. This will help your heart gradually prepare for and recover from exercise and avoid pushing your heart too hard.
  • Stop exercising if you have any unusual discomfort, such as chest pain.
  • Do not smoke. Smoking can make heart problems worse. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines. These can increase your chances of quitting for good.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You have severe trouble breathing.
  • You cough up pink, foamy mucus and you have trouble breathing.
  • You have symptoms of a stroke. These may include:
    • Sudden numbness, tingling, weakness, or loss of movement in your face, arm, or leg, especially on only one side of your body.
    • Sudden vision changes.
    • Sudden trouble speaking.
    • Sudden confusion or trouble understanding simple statements.
    • Sudden problems with walking or balance.
    • A sudden, severe headache that is different from past headaches.
  • You have angina symptoms, such as chest pain or pressure, that do not go away with rest or are not getting better within 5 minutes after you take a dose of nitroglycerin.
  • You have signs of a stroke such as:
    • Sudden numbness, paralysis, or weakness in your face, arm, or leg, especially on only one side of your body.
    • New problems with walking or balance.
    • Sudden vision changes.
    • Drooling or slurred speech.
    • New problems speaking or understanding simple statements, or feeling confused.
    • A sudden, severe headache that is different from past headaches.
  • You passed out (lost consciousness).

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have new or increased shortness of breath.
  • You are dizzy or light-headed, or you feel like you may faint.
  • You gain weight suddenly, such as 1 to 1.3 kilograms in a day or 2 kilograms in a week. (Your doctor may suggest a different range of weight gain.)
  • You have increased swelling in your legs, ankles, or feet.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if you have any problems.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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