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About Cardiovascular Rehab

Man doing physical therapy

The field of cardiovascular rehab has two areas of focus. Cardiac rehab which focuses on heart health and vascular rehab which focuses on your circulation. While both cardiac rehab and vascular rehab focus on improving overall cardiovascular health, they target different aspects and conditions:

Cardiac Rehab

woman doing physical therapy

Cardiac Rehab


Strengthens the heart and improves blood flow after a heart event (heart attack, surgery, etc.) or diagnosis of certain heart conditions.

Who benefits: People with heart disease, including:
  • Those who have had a heart attack, bypass surgery, or other heart procedures.
  • Individuals with heart failure, angina, or certain arrhythmias.
Key components
  • Supervised exercise: Gradually increasing physical activity like walking, cycling, and swimming to improve heart function and fitness.
  • Education: Learning about heart-healthy habits, including diet, stress management, and medication adherence.
  • Emotional support: Group sessions and counseling to help manage anxiety and depression common after a heart event.

Vascular Rehab

Vascular Rehab


Improves blood flow and circulation in the legs and arms, typically due to blocked or narrowed arteries.

Who benefits: People with vascular conditions, including:
  • Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) causing leg pain and cramping.
  • Chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) leading to swelling and discomfort.
  • Lymphedema causing fluid buildup in limbs.
  • Post-surgical recovery after vascular procedures.
Key components
  • Supervised exercise: Focusing on improving walking distance and pain management through activities like walking, swimming, and leg strengthening exercises.
  • Education: Learning about managing the specific vascular condition, including skin care, compression therapy, and healthy lifestyle habits.
  • Occupational therapy: Training on adaptive equipment and techniques to perform daily activities with limitations caused by poor circulation.

Both programs are valuable for enhancing quality of life and managing symptoms, but the specific focus and techniques differ depending on the underlying condition.

Understanding the roles of different types of therapy in cardiovascular rehab

While both physical therapy (PT) and occupational therapy (OT) play crucial roles in cardiovascular rehab, they focus on different aspects of recovery and address distinct needs:

Physical Therapy (PT)


Improving physical function, exercise capacity, and management of symptoms related to the heart condition.

Typical interventions
  • Supervised exercise training: Gradual increases in walking distance, intensity, and duration to improve cardiovascular health, leg strength, and endurance.
  • Balance and coordination training: Preventing falls and enhancing stability, particularly important after a heart event or with dizziness.
  • Pain management: Techniques like heat therapy, massage, and electrical stimulation to alleviate pain and discomfort, enabling patients to exercise more comfortably.
  • Wound care: If present, managing diabetic foot ulcers or other skin issues related to poor circulation.
  • Education: Learning about heart-healthy lifestyle habits, medication adherence, and fall prevention strategies.

Occupational Therapy (OT)


Enhancing independence and ability to perform daily activities (Activities of Daily Living – ADLs) despite limitations caused by the heart condition or its treatment.

Typical interventions
  • Adaptive equipment training: Utilizing tools and aids like grab bars, dressing sticks, or special utensils to facilitate daily tasks like dressing, bathing, and cooking.
  • Splinting and bracing: Supporting weak muscles or joints to improve function and prevent skin breakdown.
  • Energy conservation techniques: Learning strategies to manage fatigue and perform tasks efficiently.
  • Cognitive rehabilitation: If cognitive difficulties like memory or attention problems affect daily routines, providing exercises and strategies to improve these skills.
  • Home modification recommendations: Suggesting changes to the home environment, such as grab bars, raised toilet seats, or shower chairs, to improve accessibility and safety.

Choosing the right type of therapy depends on individual needs and goals. For example, someone recovering from a heart attack might primarily benefit from PT to improve their exercise capacity and manage pain, while someone with fatigue and difficulty performing daily tasks due to their heart condition might benefit more from OT’s focus on functional skills and energy conservation.

Often, both PT and OT work together within a comprehensive cardiac rehab program to address the full spectrum of physical and functional challenges individuals face. The combined expertise of both therapists ensures a holistic approach to recovery and maximizes the chances of regaining independence and living a fulfilling life.

Ready to take the first step?

Complete our patient intake form and request a complimentary evaluation. It could be the key to unlocking a healthier, more active future.


Going deeper: Cardiac Rehab (CR)

Cardiovascular rehabilitation, often shortened to cardiac rehab, is a supervised program designed to help people with heart disease recover and improve their overall cardiovascular health. It’s like a personalized roadmap back to a stronger, healthier you after experiencing a heart event or undergoing a heart-related procedure.

Who Needs Cardiovascular Rehabilitation?

Cardiac rehab is beneficial for individuals who have experienced:

  • Heart attack
  • Angioplasty or stent placement
  • Heart bypass surgery
  • Heart failure
  • Certain types of arrhythmias
  • Stable angina

Even if your heart condition is considered mild, cardiac rehab can still play a crucial role in preventing future complications and enhancing your quality of life.

What’s involved with Cardiac Rehab?

Exercise Training

This is the cornerstone of cardiac rehab, involving carefully monitored and gradually increasing physical activity like walking, cycling, and swimming.

Education and Counseling

You’ll learn about heart-healthy lifestyle habits, including:


  • Eating a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains while limiting unhealthy fats and sodium.
  • Stress management: Techniques to cope with stress and anxiety, which can worsen heart health.
  • Smoking cessation: Resources and support to quit smoking, a major risk factor for heart disease.
  • Medication adherence: Understanding the importance of taking your medications as prescribed.

Emotional Support

Dealing with a heart condition can be emotionally challenging. Cardiac rehab provides a supportive environment where you can connect with others who understand what you’re going through and receive guidance from mental health professionals.

What are the benefits of Cardiac Rehab?
  • Reduced risk of future heart problems: Give your heart the best chance to stay healthy and happy.
  • Improved fitness and energy: Feel the power surge back into your life! Walk farther, do more, and enjoy being active again.
  • Better mood and reduced stress: Dealing with a heart condition can be tough, but cardiac rehab can help you manage the emotional rollercoaster.
  • Enhanced quality of life: Get back to doing the things you love, with confidence and a new zest for life.

Going Deeper: What is Vascular Rehab (VR)?

Vascular rehabilitation (VR), often abbreviated as VR, is a specialized program designed to help individuals overcome challenges caused by poor blood circulation. It’s like a roadmap to improved mobility, reduced pain, and enhanced quality of life, especially for those struggling with conditions affecting their vascular system.

Who needs vascular rehab?

Vascular rehab is often recommended for those with conditions like:

  • Peripheral arterial disease (PAD)
  • Chronic venous insufficiency (CVI)
  • Lymphedema
  • Post-surgical recovery after vascular procedures
  • Diabetic foot problems
What’s involved with Vascular Rehab?
  • Personalized exercise training to improve circulation and build strength
  • Education on managing your condition, including skin care, compression therapy, and lifestyle changes
  • Emotional support and guidance from healthcare professionals
Benefits of VR:
  • Walk farther with less pain
  • Reduce risk of complications like ulcers and amputations
  • Gain energy and independence
  • Improve overall health and well-being

It’s time to get your body working again.

Simply complete our online request form and one of our intake coordinators will contact you within one business day.