If you have had a heart attack, cardiac rehabilitation might be good for you.

Cardiac rehabilitation is a special programme offered by hospitals and heart centres. It enables, encourages and assists heart patients to recover from their heart condition and to maximise their potential of good cardiac health and function. It is a life-long process and begins from the time of diagnosis.

The National Heart Centre Singapore (NHCS), a member of the SingHealth ​group, offers a structured cardiovascular rehabilitation and preventive cardiology programme that includes three main components – risk factor control and monitoring, patient education and individualised exercise training. The nurses and the physiotherapists will assess the patients and stratify them into low, moderate or high risk.

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Exercise intensity and exercise regimes are prescribed based on this stratification to allow patients to exercise at a safe maximum intensity that gives optimal benefit. The exercise sessions are supervised and monitored by the physiotherapists and nurses.

For the standard course, there are 16 sessions in total. During these sessions, patients undergo individualised cardiac rehabilitation using various exercise modalities which aim at improving their aerobic fitness as well as strength. Exercises include cycling, running on the treadmill and weight-lifting.

Dr ​Tan Swee Yaw, Senior Consultant, Department of Cardiology and Director, Cardiovascular Rehabilitation and Preventive Cardiology, NHCS, says: “G​enerally, most patients after a heart bypass, valvular heart surgery, heart attack or balloon angioplasty should go for the cardiac rehabilitation programme. Each patient will be carefully evaluated to ensure that they are safe to undergo the programme.”

When did the NHCS cardiovascular rehabilitation and preventive cardiology programme start?

The NHCS cardiovascular rehabilitation and preventive cardiology programme started in 1996 with four patients. Since then, the programme has grown substantially, seeing about 500 new patients each year. However, Dr Tan says the number of participants is small compared to the total number of patients at NHCS.

As NHCS sees about 10,000 inpatients and over 100,000 outpatients every year, more patients should come and benefit from the programme, he says.

Cardiac rehabilitation helps in the following ways:

  1. Better control of the cardiac risk factors

  2. Reduced mortality risk

  3. Setting of the patient’s exercise target

  4. Increased motivation to stay fit

Dr Tan says: “Ultimately, the programme aims to get patients back to their best functional capacity so that they can live life to their fullest.”

Participants are taught skills to continue their rehabilitation at home after they complete the programme.

See next page for information on success stories of the cardiac rehabilitation programme at NHCS.

​Ref: S13