skip to main content

Cardiac rehab saves lives. So why don't more heart patients sign up?

When Mario Oikonomides was 38 years old he had a massive heart attack. About a month later, after he'd recuperated from the emergency, his doctors sent him to a cardiac rehabilitation program, where he learned about the role physical activity can play in reducing cardiac risk.

"I never exercised before," Oikonomides says. "I became addicted to exercising." The program, overseen by a medical team, also checked up on his medications, provided nutrition counseling and offered other help and coaching in the fraught weeks and months after his hospitalization.

Oikonomides is 69 now and lives in Charlottesville, Va. When he recently needed bypass surgery, long decades after that heart attack, he again signed up for a rehabilitation program as soon as he could.

"I bought myself 30 years of healthy life as a result of cardiac rehab," he says.

But, despite many years of research showing that joining a cardiac rehabilitation program can help heart patients heal faster and even live longer, Oikonomides is among a minority of patients who take advantage of such programs; fewer than a third do.

Read the full story on Shots Health News from NPR.

Posted: July 18, 2016