Some people believe that rehab is inappropriate for the the most senior patients. However, according to a recent Reuters Health article, that may not be the case:  “Exercise-based rehabilitation programs for heart patients are tied to health benefits even among the most elderly, according to a new study.”

Rehab Prescribed for Patients of Major Cardiac Events

“‘You do get a benefit from this,’ said Dr. Killian Robinson, one of the study authors from Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.  So-called cardiac rehabilitation is often prescribed for patients who have had heart surgery or a major cardiac problem, such as a heart attack.  It usually involves returning to the hospital several times a week for a few months for monitored exercise, taking medication to control heart-related risk factors and making lifestyle improvements.  Numerous studies have found that cardiac rehabilitation can improve patients’ health and reduce their chances of dying early (see Reuters Health report of June 10, 2011 here: reut.rs/kbcoAn).”

Cardiac Rehab Under Utilized for the Oldest Patients

“‘Cardiac rehabilitation is probably the best kept secret in cardiovascular medicine today. It’s underutilized for those who are eligible for the program, and especially underutilized for older adults,’ said Dr. Randal Thomas, director of the Cardiovascular Health Clinic at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, who was not part of the study. It’s estimated that only about 30 percent of eligible patients attend a cardiac rehab program.  ‘Doctors are expected to refer patients to cardiac rehab, but very few people take advantage of it for a number of reasons, including difficulty traveling to the hospital regularly, a lack of insurance coverage or not understanding its benefits,’ Thomas told Reuters Health.”

“Both younger and older patients improved on nearly all measures by the end of 36 rehab sessions, the researchers report in The American Journal of Cardiology.”

“‘Although the improvements in exercise capacity among the very old were not as large as the gains seen among younger patients, they are still meaningful,’ said Lavie, who wasn’t involved in the research. ‘The elderly are more debilitated, so this very small improvement could make a real significant improvement in their quality of life and allow them to do things they wouldn’t ordinarily be able to do from a functional standpoint,’ he told Reuters Health.”

Cardiac Rehab is Safe for Majority of Eldest Patients

“Robinson said the study shows that cardiac rehabilitation works for the oldest patients, and that doctors should be more assertive in getting their patients on board. He told Reuters Health cardiac rehab is considered safe for the vast majority of patients well enough to undergo heart surgery. It would not be recommended for patients with crippling arthritis, orthopedic issues or debilitating cancers or those having other surgeries or facing the end of life.”

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