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Cardiac Rehabilitation ~ Ask An Expert

Cardiac Rehabilitation ~ Ask An Expert

With SMH Cardiopulmonary Rehab Team Lead Meredith Cleveland

A simple Google search turns up plenty of tips on preventing heart attacks and heart disease, but what happens after someone has a heart attack or heart surgery? How can they boost their heart health, avoid future heart attacks and get back to living life to the fullest?

To find out, Healthe-Matters editors talked with Sarasota Memorial Cardiopulmonary Rehab Lead Meredith Cleveland, who offers some great insight into cardiac care beyond treatment in this “Ask an Expert” Q&A.

What is “cardiac rehabilitation”?

Cardiovascular rehabilitation, a specialized type of rehab, is a medically supervised and customized program designed to improve cardiac patients’ cardiovascular health. Oftentimes, after a heart attack, heart failure, heart valve surgery, coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) or other heart procedure, patients can optimize their heart function through cardiac rehab. Physicians may prescribe patients cardiac rehabilitation while they are still in the hospital or after they’ve been discharged.

Because each patient enters cardiovascular rehab with a unique history, case managers custom-tailor the experience to meet the patients’ unique needs

What can a patient expect to happen during a cardiac rehab session? 

In SMH’s Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation Program, each patient participates in 36, one-hour sessions supervised by exercise physiologists, who work closely with the patient’s referring physician. Sessions typically include supervised exercise, help with reducing or modifying heart-disease risk factors and tips or solutions for living a heart-healthy lifestyle. 

Who needs — and is eligible for — cardiopulmonary rehab? 

At SMH, the cardiopulmonary rehab program is open to those who have a physician prescription and have experienced a heart attack within the last year, coronary artery bypass surgery, heart valve surgery, coronary angioplasty or stent placement, stable angina, chronic heart failure or heart transplant.

What are the benefits of cardiac rehab?

Cardiac rehabilitation has a long list of potential benefits! These include: 

  • Living longer and lessening chances of having another heart attack
    Slowing or stopping progression of damage to the heart’s blood vessels 
  • Experiencing fewer hospitalizations
  • Controlling heart disease symptoms such as chest pain, fatigue or shortness of breath
  • Improving confidence and well-being
  • Learning relaxation techniques to help manage and reduce stress

Can cardiac rehab help patients get return to work faster after surgery?

Absolutely! Cardiac rehab improves stamina and strength, getting participants back to their usual activities, including work, hobbies and regular exercise. Recent studies show that heart patients who complete a cardiac rehab program can increase their life expectancy by up to five years.

Is cardiac rehab expensive? Will insurance/Medicare cover it?

Cardiac rehabilitation is covered by most health insurance companies, but we always advise SMH patients to check their health insurance plan to determine copays or other requirements. If it’s not covered, contact your local cardiac rehabilitation facility to inquire what programs are available for patients who do not have insurance.

What are some highlights of SMH’s Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation Program?


Ask An Expert is an ongoing Healthe-Matters Q&A series with Sarasota Memorial’s team of doctors, nurses and other health experts, where you can get thorough answers to your health and wellness queries from a local source you can trust. Have a question that you’d like to “Ask an Expert”? Email it to

Sarasota Memorial's Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation Team Lead Meredith Cleveland, BS, CCRP, is also the program director for the SMH Ornish Reversal Program. As an exercise physiologist, she has a passion for improving people’s health and overall well-being and works very closely with patients with cardiac and pulmonary diseases and other medical issues. 

Posted: Jan 29, 2019,
Comments: 0,
Author: Ann Key