Cardiac rehabilitation

Cardiac rehabilitation (or cardiac rehab) is about getting the help and support you need to help you get yourself back to as full a life as possible after an event such as a heart attack, heart surgery or other cardiac procedure. It’s about supporting you to live with your heart condition, to stay as healthy as possible, and to reduce the chance of you having another heart event.

When you leave the hospital after your heart attack, you will usually be referred to the local cardiac rehab team. The cardiac rehab team may include a wide range of healthcare professionals, such as cardiac rehab nurses and physiotherapists.

You should be invited to a cardiac rehab assessment shortly after you leave the hospital. This will allow you to discuss what matters to you in terms of your recovery and how the cardiac rehab team can support you with this.
If you have not been invited for an assessment within 2-3 weeks of leaving hospital, check with your GP, practice
nurse or hospital doctor.


Your assessment will be with a member of the cardiac rehab team. They will discuss a number of issues with you, including:

  • What you understand about what happened and how you have been feeling since your heart event
  • Any other health conditions you have
  • Risk factors for heart disease, such as what your diet is like and whether you smoke
  • The medication that you are taking and if you are having any problems with your medicines

They may take some measurements too, including your weight, height and waist measurement and your blood
pressure. Using this information, the cardiac rehab team will work with you to develop an individual care plan based on your needs. This will often include referral to a cardiac rehab programme.

Cardiac rehabilitation programme

Cardiac rehabilitation in action

Cardiac rehabilitation in action

Cardiac rehab programmes can vary throughout Scotland but they will usually cover the following:

  • Exercise. This will mostly be ‘aerobic’ exercises to improve your muscles, heart and circulation and to help you gain confidence. Aerobic exercises are exercises such as walking and cycling that increase your heart rate and get you breathing faster.
  • Education. This may cover areas such as how the heart works, risk factors for heart disease, treatments for heart conditions, healthy lifestyles, practical issues such as driving or returning to work, and what to do if you feel unwell.
  • Relaxation. You may be taught relaxation techniques and how to manage stress.
  • Emotional support. During your cardiac rehab your emotional and mental health will be assessed regularly to make sure that you are getting the support you need. If you and the cardiac rehab team think it is appropriate you may be referred for psychological support to help with stress management, anxiety or depression.
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