Cardiovascular disease encompasses all disorders of the heart and blood vessels. Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) is the largest cause of cardiovascular disease mortality. Death rates from CHD are much higher in Eastern and Central European countries however the UK still has the highest death rate among the more developed countries.
CHD is the most common cause of premature (before the age of 75) death in the UK. Although mortality rates have declined over the past thirty years, medical and scientific advancements in the diagnostic techniques and surgical interventions have resulted in an increase on the overall burden of CHD in terms of health resources. This burden is also increased due to the fact that people are living longer. Measures can be taken to reduce the risk factors for CHD, including living a healthy lifestyle, medication and increasing levels of physical activity.
Like all major illnesses CHD has a physical, psychological and behavioural impact on peoples lives. This can, in turn increase the risk of subsequent cardiac events by introducing a barrier to lifestyle modification. For example patients with CHD may be afraid of increasing their levels of physical activity after an event in case this increased activity then leads to further damage of their heart and another cardiac event that could prove more serious.
Primary prevention strategies and programmes are now becoming more common around the UK as the issues and effects of CHD are becoming more apparent. There is also an increased emphasis on cardiac rehabilitation after a cardiac event in order to prevent a secondary event from occurring.
Cardiac Rehabilitation (CR) is a coordinated, multifaceted intervention, designed to optimise a cardiac patient’s physical, psychological and social well being. The overall aim of CR is to return the patient back to full health following a cardiac event, therefore preventing further cardiac complications.
Exercise and physical activity has been a central component of the CR process for several reasons. Supervised exercise can help restore the patient’s confidence and feelings of well-being following a cardiac event. This important component of CR can prevent or even reverse the progression of the underlying atherosclerotic processes, thereby reducing further morbidity and mortality. Exercise and physical activity can also act as a core activity to provide psychological and social support to the patient.