Cardiac Rehabilitation Advised for Cancer Patients

A new scientific statement put out by the American Heart Association is advocating cardiac rehabilitation for patients going though cancer treatments. There’s a huge increase in the risk of heart disease associated with cancer treatment, and focusing on the total health of the patient requires treating the potential for heart problems.

What’s the link?

Many of the treatments used to help cure cancer patients, such as chemotherapy and radiation, pose a risk to the patient’s heart health. The authors of the statement cite recently emerged studies that show a strong increase in heart disease for breast, prostate and colorectal patients. There are currently seventeen million cancer survivors in the US, and they are two to three times more likely to develop heart disease and two to eighteen times more likely to develop hypertension and diabetes. Heart problems often interfere during treatment as well, posing new threats to the success of the treatment. If patients would begin a cardiac rehab program during treatment, it might increase the chance of her success as well her life expectancy down the line.

Several studies have already found that the heart fitness that exercise promotes can indeed substitute for the decline in heart health that comes along with cancer treatment. Other studies have shown that exercising even one time a week makes a difference in a person’s level of overall health.

What’s the recommendation?

Due the tremendous risk to the patient, as already borne out by evidence, the AHA recommends beginning cardiac rehab while the patient is already receiving treatment for cancer.

After researching the evidence on the matter, the statement’s authors convened a group of cardiologists, cancer rehab specialists, oncologists, and exercise experts to go through the current research and make recommendations.

The concept would involve the relevant physicians ascertaining which patients are at the highest risk for developing heart disease and complications – mostly those affected by targeted, toxic chemotherapy treatments.

What is cardiac rehab?

A cardiac rehab program combines a regiment of exercise, nutrition and other healthy habits for each patient. A typical program features the exercise itself, plus guided lifestyle changes and education about nutrition, weight control and smoking. Also included is a psychological component, to help patients deal with depression, anxiety and other related mental and emotional issues.

The recommendation is that each program should be fully customized to the specific needs of each patient in terms of material, length and schedule.

Doctor Susan Gilchrist, a cardiac rehab expert and lead author of the statement, emphasizes that exercise is key for keeping the patient’s health whole. In an interview with Reuter’s, she said “Cardiac rehabilitation is one of the ways to systematically engage patients in an exercise program and look at the other factors they may be dealing with, such as uncontrolled blood pressure or depression.” She emphasizes that there are cardiac rehab programs all over the states, even in smaller facilities, and that they should be leveraged to help in cancer treatment.

There is currently no subsidy program to over the costs of cardiac rehab for cancer patients, and the author’s statement urges practitioners and government to develop a subsidy program to work with this population. In the meantime, it can be covered through private payment and/or other types of government aid.

Hudson View Center for Rehab offers excellent cardiac rehab services for all of your needs. We have a full staff of experienced and expert doctors to help all of our patients on the road to healthy success.


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