Cardiac Rehab Crucial for Women with Coronary Artery Disease

Susan Stegman, MDContributed by Susan Stegman, MD

A new Canadian study says women with coronary artery disease (CAD) who complete a 12-week rehabilitation program are two-thirds less likely to die than those not referred to a program. Even more interesting, women with CAD who complete rehabilitation programs reduce their chances of dying early significantly more than men with CAD who complete the same 12-week program.

Putting your needs first

According to the American College of Cardiology’s 62nd Annual Scientific Session, only one in three women with CAD are referred to rehabilitation programs. And of those, only half will actually complete a 12-week program. The study doesn’t go into detail as to why so few women are referred to cardiac rehab programs, but it does offer some theories about why so many women don’t complete their rehabilitation. One explanation is that women are so busy juggling family obligations that they tend to put their own needs on the back burners. Other theories point to transportation issues and the insurance preapproval process.

Lower your risk for future heart problems

For me, the biggest take-away from this study is that women with CAD must take an active role in their heart health. Don’t wait for your doctor to refer you to a cardiac rehab program. Be your own advocate. And just as important, commit to completing the full 12-week program. From classes to help you quit smoking, to working with a nutritionist to create a healthy eating plan, to improving your overall physical fitness, cardiac rehab can change your lifestyle in many positive ways.

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