February is Heart Health month in North America and we always like to use this month to remind our patients how important their heart health actually is. Most people are aware of how crucial it is to keep this vital organ healthy, but not enough of us actually actively work on our heart health. While the link between heart health and physiotherapy is still one being researched today, there are enough studies proving how much physical activity helps your heart function properly. Here is some information about a physiotherapist’s role in Cardiovascular Rehabilitation and how to keep your heart in great shape.

What is Cardiovascular Rehabilitation?

Cardiovascular Rehabilitation is a type of program that aims to limit the stress of Cardiovascular Disease and is designed to improve your cardiovascular health. This type of rehab is common for those who have experienced a heart attack, heart failure, angioplasty, or heart surgery. The goal of Cardiovascular Rehabilitation is to improve your overall cardiac capacity and function, halt or reverse disease, and increase your self-confidence as you gradually regain strength and function. The programs are medically supervised and usually include some form of exercise training, education about how to maintain a heart-healthy lifestyle, and counselling to reduce stress.

Why Choose Physiotherapy for Heart Health?

Your physiotherapist is an important part of your Cardiovascular Rehabilitation team! Each program will vary depending on your needs but they all generally include four parts: medical assessment, physical activity, lifestyle education, and psychosocial support. We are often involved in all four of these steps and help in establishing a plan for you to regain strength and function, prevent your condition from worsening, reduce the risk of future heart issues, and improve your overall quality of life.

The people most at risk of developing cardiovascular disease include those who keep an unhealthy diet, consume high volumes of alcohol, smoke, and are physically inactive. Your family history and age can also be a factor in your risk level. It is important to note that cardiac rehabilitation is not appropriate for everyone who has had heart disease. Your physiotherapist will always evaluate your health and medical history with the rest of your health care team to ensure you are ready to start the program. Over the long term, some of the many benefits to sticking with your cardiovascular rehabilitation program include improved strength, reducing bad habits and learning better heart healthy behaviours, finding ways to manage stress, finding a support team, and generally learning how to cope with heart disease or issues.

What is a Physiotherapy Heart Health Treatment Plan?

Most Cardiovascular Rehabilitation treatment plan can be split into four components: medical assessment, physical activity, lifestyle education, and psychosocial support. Your health care team will usually begin with an initial medical assessment to check your physical abilities and limitations. This will help us track your progress, risk factors, and tailor your treatment plan to your specific needs. The next element is physical activity which will generally involve low impact activities such as walking, cycling, yoga, muscle-strengthening exercises, resistance training, and other physiotherapy exercises. We will make sure to teach you proper techniques and move at a comfortable pace. Next is lifestyle education which includes expert support on how to make healthy lifestyle changes surrounding regular exercise, diet, and nutrition. Finally, psychosocial support is the last component of a usual cardiovascular treatment plan. This element is designed to help you come up with strategies for managing the mental elements of heart disease or issues. This can include anything from managing depression or anxiety, regaining social support systems, and returning to work.

Common Cardiovascular Rehabilitation Exercises

While the exercises and physiotherapy techniques will differ depending on your current condition and medical history, there are some common exercises that will usually overlap. A simple place to start is proper breathing techniques which we can all benefit from, regardless of your heart health. Practicing your breathing can lead to muscle relaxation, better mindfulness, and increased awareness of your body. Our trained Baden and Kitchener Physiotherapists can work with you to increase your breathing capacity and relax your muscles. We also usually include some exercises to build back your strength, regain a sense of balance, and slowly re-introduce a cardio routine.

We hope this blog helped you understand a little bit more about Cardiovascular Rehabilitation and how you can improve your heart health. Remember to always talk to your doctor before looking into these programs as they will help you determine if doing so is safe and beneficial. We have plenty of Physiotherapy Services (in Kitchener and Baden) to help you achieve the highest quality of life possible this year – contact our team with any questions you have!

Want more lifestyle advice on how to improve your overall health and wellness? Contact our LiveWell Health and Physiotherapy Kitchener or Baden teams to get more information and book your next appointment. You can also reach out to us by email or social media and one of our team members would be more than happy to answer any of your questions! All of our practitioners have more tips and expert guidance to help improve the overall quality of your life.