Cardiac Rehabilitation

Heart care does not end when you leave our hospital. At MetroWest Medical Center, we strive to improve your cardiac health through our cardiac rehabilitation program if you have experienced heart surgery, heart attack, angioplasty or heart failure. Here, you will partner with doctors, pharmacists, nurses and other support groups to help you take charge of healthy habits, diet and lifestyle choices that affect your heart.

You don’t have to cope with heart disease on your own. We offer comprehensive inpatient, outpatient and wellness programs to promote improved cardiac health. Let us help you.

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Helping Your Heart Grow Stronger

Cardiovascular diseases are one of the leading causes of death in the United States. People of all ages with cardiac conditions can benefit from a heart rehab program, especially if you have or have experienced a:

  • Heart attack
  • Heart conditions such as angina, heart failure or coronary artery disease
  • Heart procedures such as:
    • Coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery
    • Percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI)
    • Valve replacement
    • Placement of pacemaker or implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD)

Our Framingham Union Hospital in Framingham, MA has heart rehab specialists who will work with you to create a personalized rehabilitation program to:

  • Improve your physical function
  • Build your confidence in day-to-day activities
  • Reduce your health risks

What Is Cardiac Rehabilitation?

You can reduce your risk of a next cardiac event by participating in cardiac rehab. Cardiac rehab aims to improve cardiovascular health and manage cardiac risk factors. It involves three equally important parts:

  • Exercise training and counseling
  • Education for cardiac-healthy living
  • Stress-reducing counseling

Eating better and losing weight the healthy way are among the things you can do to get the most out of your cardiac rehab so that you can return to work or get back to activities you might have missed. A cardiac rehabilitation program focuses on:

  • Blood pressure management 
  • Diabetes management 
  • Exercise training 
  • Lipid management 
  • Nutritional counseling 
  • Physical activity counseling 
  • Psychosocial management 
  • Tobacco cessation 
  • Weight management

Since cardiac rehab is also a medically supervised program, your doctor may recommend some medicines during your rehab, such as:

  • Beta-blockers aim to reduce heart rate and workload to treat high blood pressure and other heart conditions.
  • Antithrombotics (anti-coagulant/anti-platelet medicines) prevent blood clot formation in your arteries.
  • ACE inhibitors treat heart failure and high blood pressure by interfering with the body’s angiotensin production, a chemical that narrows the artery. Doctors may recommend angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs) to patients who cannot take ACE inhibitors.
  • Statins help the body process and remove bad cholesterol.

What Are the Four Phases of Cardiac Rehabilitation?

Recovering from a cardiac procedure or event takes time. At MetroWest Medical Center, we implement four phases in our cardiac rehab program:

  • Phase 1: It is the period when the patient stays in the hospital to recover from a cardiac event or procedure.
  • Phase 2: After Phase 1, the patient returns home and prepares to become a part of our outpatient recovery program, which combines counseling, exercise sessions and more.
  • Phase 3: An extension of Phase 2, Phase 3 is when health professionals help a patient maintain a healthier lifestyle through consistent supervised exercise sessions and health education.
  • Phase 4: It is the maintenance phase, wherein the patients are encouraged to maintain the healthy habits they have started. Their primary care team continues to monitor their medication, risk factors and clinical conditions.

How Long Is a Cardiac Rehab Session?

Cardiac rehab programs generally have 36 sessions that span three months. You will improve your cardiovascular fitness by undergoing supervised exercise training during this time. The physical activity type and intensity will depend on your heart condition’s severity. Your therapist may check your oxygen level and blood pressure during an exercise session.

Your exercise routine may include both aerobic and muscle-strengthening exercises. Walking outside or on a treadmill, cycling, rowing and climbing stairs are some of the aerobic exercises you may generally be doing three to five days, 30 to 45 minutes per session.

Strengthening activities include resistance training such as lifting weights (free weights, hand weights or weight machines), using a wall pulley, elastic bands or body weights. Each resistance training activity is usually done in sets per session two to three days a week.

Inpatient Rehabilitation

After you have been admitted for a heart attack or other cardiovascular services, our specialists will work with you on risk factor modification and activity progression so that you can transition home more easily. We will provide educational materials on your diagnosis and support your recovery.

Outpatient Rehabilitation

Cardiac or cardiovascular rehabilitation is available for patients who have experienced a heart attack, angioplasty or cardiac bypass surgery, as well as for some patients with angina, abnormal stress tests, cardiomyopathy, valve surgery and cardiac transplant.

Our cardiologists, dietitians, exercise specialists, registered nurses and social workers will work with you to improve your cardiac function, reduce your cardiovascular disease risk factors and begin to lead a healthier lifestyle.

Exercise Program

An important aspect of our outpatient cardiac rehab program is exercise. We provide you with a customized exercise program, which usually requires two to three weekly sessions for several weeks.

Cardiopulmonary Wellness Program

The Cardiopulmonary Wellness Program at The MetroWest YMCA in Framingham provides a medically supervised exercise and risk factor management program for individuals at risk for or have known cardiovascular or pulmonary disease.

We will give participants a comprehensive exercise program to optimize functional status, enhance their quality of life and manage cardiac risk factors. Clinical exercise physiologists supervise these exercise sessions. Our two-day-per-week program will also educate participants through one-on-one coaching and group educational lectures. Members will gain the knowledge, skills and motivation to manage or prevent disease.

For more information, contact our Cardiac Rehab Department at 508-383-1680.


The goal of cardiac rehab is to help you reduce risk factors that put you at increased risk of health problems in the future. If you are a smoker, quit smoking for good. Smoking increases your risk of dying from coronary heart disease due to insufficient oxygen-rich blood that reaches your heart. It may worsen your blood cholesterol or blood pressure level if you have these risk factors.

Get active and engage in moderate-intensity physical activity for at least 150 minutes per week. Do brisk walking, cycling, jogging and more. Benefits include:

  • Losing weight
  • Reducing stress
  • Sleeping better
  • Lowering blood pressure
  • Increasing HDL (good) cholesterol

Check Your Blood Pressure

Your heart must work harder if your blood pressure is higher than normal. Continue intaking prescribed blood pressure-regulating medications to prevent strokes, heart failure, heart attacks and kidney diseases. Lose weight healthy, consume less sodium (salt) and regularly engage in physical activity. 

Your doctor may advise you to monitor your blood pressure. The American Heart Association created the table below for your reference:

Blood Pressure CategorySystolic mm Hg
(upper number)
 Diastolic mm Hg
(lower number)
NormalLess than 120andLess than 80
Elevated120 to 129andLess than 80
Stage 1 High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)120 to 139or80 to 89
Stage 2 High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)140 or higheror90 or higher
Hypertensive Crisis (consult your doctor immediately)Higher than 180and/orHigher than 120


Instructions on Measuring Your Blood Pressure

  • Do not smoke, drink caffeinated drinks or exercise within 30 minutes of measurement.
  • Rest in a chair for a minimum of 5 minutes. Make sure to rest your left arm comfortably on a flat surface at heart level. Sit still, relax and do not talk. Your back should be straight and supported. Your feet should be flat on the floor.
  • Make sure that your instrument is properly validated and calibrated. Check its cuff for size and fit.
  • Put the cuff’s bottom above the bend of your left elbow.
  • Record all results. Take at least two readings one minute apart in the morning before taking medicine and in the evening before dinner.

Lower Your Blood Cholesterol

You may have high blood cholesterol levels if you eat food with too much trans-fat or saturated fat and if your body creates too much cholesterol. If you are at increased risk for coronary heart disease, your treatment will focus on reducing cholesterol. Healthy eating habits and lifestyle changes may help you. Your doctor may recommend cholesterol medicine for you if you qualify.

Regulate Blood Sugar (Glucose) Level

People with diabetes should regulate their blood sugar level through diet, physical activity, weight loss, medications and regular blood glucose monitoring. Heart medications like aspirin, beta-blockers, statins and ACE inhibitors have greater benefits in diabetic patients. These medicines must be taken with a doctor’s prescription and instructions.

Getting Started with Cardiac Rehabilitation

Before signing up for our cardiac rehab program, get a physician’s recommendation to assess your eligibility correctly. If you have recently undergone a heart attack procedure, you must be cleared by your surgeon first before you can be evaluated to qualify for a heart rehab program. Ensure you take your medicines correctly and on time. If you experience new or worsening symptoms during your cardiac rehab, call 911 immediately.

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