Only one-fourth of patients eligible for cardiac rehab attend, finds a study

The Journal of the American Heart Association published a study that found only 1 in 4 patients get cardiac rehabilitation after a heart attack or heart surgery. This surprising news was from a study of over 100,000 patients in the U.S., each eligible for cardiac rehab, proven beneficial for recovery after a cardiac event or procedure. Cardiac rehabilitation is an exercise program that is medically supervised to help patients return to an active lifestyle safely and, more importantly, reduce hospital readmissions. 

Findings from the study

For years, studies have shown that not many eligible patients enroll in cardiac rehab. For example, this study found that only about 26% of the approximately 107,000 participants attended one cardiac rehab session. Even more disappointing was cardiac rehab attendance rates were especially low among Asian, Black, and Hispanic patients, who were 19% to 43% less likely to show up for their rehab sessions compared to white patients.

Even income did not seem to matter or make a difference among the people of color, as even those with a higher income were less likely to attend. In fact, for patients who had a household income of more than $100,000, the racial divide still occurred. Among patients over that income level, 40% of white patients went to cardiac rehab, while only 27% and 33% of people of different ethnic backgrounds.

Why were people of color less likely to go to cardiac rehab?

Researchers with the study discussed possible reasons for the disparity among people of color who were not as likely to attend cardiac rehab when compared to white patients. One reason was the time commitment of attending three weekly sessions for 12 weeks made it difficult to fit in their schedule, along with having reliable transportation to attend rehab each time.

Another factor is certain health insurance plans had better coverage for these sessions while others did not. In addition, some patients felt overwhelmed and bombarded with information while in the hospital recovering from a heart attack or cardiac procedure and felt they didn’t need more additional things to know or do. 

Some patients may not have seen the need for “just exercising” and felt they could do that on their own. The researchers, however, pointed out that cardiac rehab involves medical supervision by trained nurses along with healthy eating information and tips on mental health.  Each researcher agreed that getting patients to see the positive effects of participating in cardiac rehab is key. 

What are the benefits of cardiac rehabilitation?

Each year, more than 1 million Americans will experience a coronary event or undergo a procedure related to cardiovascular disease.  Patients who qualify for cardiac rehabilitation include people who have:

  • Had a heart attack
  • Has stable chronic heart failure
  • Has current stable angina
  • Anyone who has had a coronary angioplasty or stent
  • Anyone who has had bypass surgery
  • Anyone who has had a heart valve replacement or repair
  • Anyone who has had a heart or heart-lung transplant

There are certain core cardiac rehab components that make this program a necessary part of recovering from a heart attack or cardiac procedure. Besides, patients who prioritize attending cardiac rehab classes have a greater chance of a complete recovery long-term.

Here are components from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality Take Heart that makes cardiac rehab a must for anyone after a cardiac event:

  • Lower risk of death
  • Fewer symptoms, such as angina and fatigue
  • Reduced heart attack recurrence
  • Better medication adherence
  • Improved exercise performance
  • Increased quality of life and ability to perform daily living activities
  • The patient’s mood is improved
  • Better quality of care and outcomes
  • Reduced readmissions
  • Improved quality metrics
  • Increased readiness for value-based payment initiatives


Dr. David Samadi is the Director of Men’s Health and Urologic Oncology at St. Francis Hospital in Long Island. He’s a renowned and highly successful board certified Urologic Oncologist Expert and Robotic Surgeon in New York City, regarded as one of the leading prostate surgeons in the U.S., with a vast expertise in prostate cancer treatment and Robotic-Assisted Laparoscopic Prostatectomy.  Dr. Samadi is a medical contributor to NewsMax TV and is also the author of The Ultimate MANual, Dr. Samadi’s Guide to Men’s Health and Wellness, available online both on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Visit Dr. Samadi’s websites at robotic oncology and prostate cancer 911. 

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