Doctors Should Push Cardiac Rehab Programs

They can prevent recurrent heart attacks, experts say

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MONDAY, Jan. 24, 2005 (HealthDayNews) -- Doctors should urge recovering heart patients to exercise and adhere to cardiac rehabilitation and secondary prevention programs to prevent recurrent heart attacks, says an updated scientific statement from the American Heart Association.

"Cardiac rehabilitation programs remain underused in this country, with only 10 to 20 percent of the 2 million eligible patients a year who experienced heart attack or underwent cardiac revascularization procedures participating," Dr. Arthur Leon, chairman of the writing group and a professor in exercise science and health enhancement at the University of Minnesota, said in a prepared statement.

"In addition to a low physician referral rate, factors contributing to underuse of the services include poor patient motivation and inadequate third-party reimbursement. We need to motivate physicians to be more progressive in educating and referring patients to cardiac rehabilitation programs and motivate insurance companies to cover them," Leon said.

The statement emphasized the importance of exercise-based cardiac rehabilitation. The average cardiac death rate was 26 percent lower in rehabilitation patients who were exercise-trained, compared to those who received usual care, according to a summary of research findings included in the statement.

Exercise-trained patients also had 21 percent fewer nonfatal heart attacks, 13 percent fewer bypass surgeries and 19 percent fewer angioplasties.

More information

The American Heart Association has more about cardiac rehabilitation.

SOURCE: American Heart Association, news release, Jan. 24, 2005

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