Cardiac rehab associated with decrease in mortality, especially in least fit

Cardiac rehabilitation boosts longevity, especially in patients with the lowest fitness levels, according to research presented at the 2011 Canadian Cardiovascular Congress in Vancouver.

Researchers at the Cardiac Wellness Institute of Calgary conducted a study of 2,867 people with coronary artery disease who participated in a cardiac rehab program between 1996 and 2010. Upon enrollment, they were measured for weight, waist circumference, blood pressure, blood glucose and cholesterol.

After being tested for their fitness levels on a treadmill, participants were categorized into three groups: low fitness, moderate fitness or high fitness based on standardized scores. They then attended 12 weeks of rehabilitation, during which they took their prescribed medication and did regular aerobic, strength and stretching exercises.

Participants also attended education sessions to learn better nutrition and stress management.

After the 12 weeks of rehab, they were retested on the treadmill to determine fitness level. In addition, 1,696 of the people in the study returned for treadmill testing one year after starting the program.

Results showed the better a person’s level of fitness, the lower the risk of death over the 15 years of the study. “We found that your fitness predicts how you do in the long term,” researchers said. “If you are more fit, you are less likely to die.”

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