Home cardiac rehab program reduces death by 36%: Study

The American Heart Association found participating in home-based cardiac rehabilitation after a heart attack or cardiac procedure was associated with 36 percent lower likelihood to die from heart-related complications.

The study, published March 1 in the Journal of the American Heart Association, compared 1,120 U.S. military veterans who opted in and out of home-based cardiac rehabilitation over four years. Only 490 opted for home-based rehabilitation, which included nine telephonic coaching and motivational interview sessions over 12 weeks. It is the first U.S. study to provide evidence of survival benefit with home-based cardiac rehabilitation in people with heart disease, according to the study authors.

"We don't know why so many patients opted out of rehabilitation," senior study author Mary Whooley, MD, a primary care physician at the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center and professor of medicine at the University of California San Francisco, said in a March 1 news release. "Even when home-based cardiac rehabilitation was offered at the time and place of their choosing, only 44 percent of eligible patients chose to participate. Many patients were simply not interested in changing their behaviors."

Cardiac rehabilitation has been shown to reduce risk of hospital readmission and death but continues to be underused, according to the AHA. Cardiac rehabilitation emphasizes eliminating tobacco use, improving diet and physical exercise, managing stress and taking medications that treat high blood pressure or high cholesterol. It is estimated that increasing cardiac rehabilitation participation to 70 percent of eligible cardiac patients after hospitalization could save 25,000 lives and prevent 180,000 additional hospitalizations annually, according to CMS and the CDC.

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