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Guiding Hearts: Providing Care and Support After a Heart Attack

by | Mar 25, 2024 | Healthcare & Rehabilitation

After experiencing a heart attack, it is crucial for individuals to receive proper care and support in order to recover fully and reduce the risk of future cardiac events. If you have suffered from a heart attack, cardiac rehabilitation may be recommended to aid in your recovery. 

The process begins at the time of diagnosis and continues throughout one’s life. The National Heart Centre Singapore (NHCS), which is part of the SingHealth group, offers a structured cardiovascular rehabilitation and preventive cardiology program that consists of three main components: monitoring and managing risk factors, educating patients about their condition, and providing personalized exercise training. 

Trained nurses and physiotherapists will assess patients’ needs and classify them as low-risk, moderate-risk, or high-risk cases. For optimal recovery, exercise safely and receive the most benefit, exercise intensity and regimes are determined based on this classification.

In this regard, personalized counseling sessions are provided to educate patients about their particular cardiovascular conditions, including information on lifestyle modifications, medication adherence, and healthy dietary choices. 

Physiotherapists and nurses closely supervise and monitor exercise sessions, which consist of 16 sessions in total. These sessions focus on personalized cardiac rehabilitation using different exercise methods to enhance aerobic fitness and strength, such as cycling, treadmill running, and weightlifting. 

Firstly, NHCS emphasizes monitoring and managing various risk factors associated with cardiovascular diseases. Through regular assessments and vigilant monitoring, healthcare professionals proactively address issues such as high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol levels, and diabetes management. By closely tracking these risk factors, the center can intervene early and adopt appropriate measures to mitigate their impact on patients’ cardiovascular well-being.

NHCS integrates personalized exercise training into its holistic program. Recognizing the immense benefits of physical activity for heart health, they design exercise regimes tailored to each patient’s specific needs and goals. Exercise sessions are conducted in a safe and supervised environment by trained experts who monitor progress meticulously. 

In summary, the NHCS cardiovascular rehabilitation and preventive cardiology program consist of three interrelated components: effective risk factor management through close monitoring; equipping patients with vital knowledge through educational sessions; and providing personalized exercise training regimes designed considering individual needs and aspirations. 

Patients who have had heart bypass surgery, valvar heart surgery, heart attack, or balloon angioplasty should join a cardiac rehabilitation program, according to Dr. Tan Swee Yaw. The program’s safety is assessed for each patient before they can participate.

The NHCS cardiovascular rehabilitation and preventive cardiology program started in 1996 with four patients and has grown to accommodate around 500 new patients each year. However, Dr. Tan believes that more patients should take advantage of the program, considering NHCS’s large number of inpatients and outpatients.


Cardiac Rehabilitation

Many heart patients are unaware of the existence of a contemporary cardiac rehabilitation program that is accessible to almost everyone. While hospitalized, Mr. Ho became aware of this program and decided to join three weeks after his release, once he was assessed as stable and capable of exercising. 

The comprehensive program includes a series of supervised exercise sessions specifically designed to enable heart patients to exercise safely and build their confidence levels.

To improve Mr Ho’s aerobic fitness level during his cardiac rehabilitation journey, qualified physiotherapists tailored exercises specifically for him. These exercises involved engaging in brisk treadmill walks as well as strength training utilizing free weights and resistance bands. 

Comprehensive healthcare team consisting of physicians, nurses, and allied health professionals were readily available to educate Mr Ho and fellow participants about their heart conditions. 

They also conducted informative discussions on the significance of medication adherence, effective dietary adjustments, adopting healthier lifestyles, managing stress levels efficiently, and implementing strategies for quitting smoking. Generally spanning between one to three months in duration, these cardiac rehabilitation sessions took place once to thrice weekly.

The advantages of cardiac rehabilitation have been proven through research, demonstrating significant benefits such as a decreased likelihood of mortality, a lower risk of experiencing another heart attack, and a reduced probability of hospital readmission. In Singapore, nearly 3,000 people experience sudden cardiac arrest each year. Cardiac arrests cause more deaths annually than cancer, stroke, or trauma.

Patients who gain a deeper understanding of their condition and the significance of dietary modifications, medication adherence, and lifestyle changes often witness reduced cholesterol levels as well as better management of blood pressure and blood sugar levels. 

Moreover, engaging in rehabilitation programs fosters regular exercise habits that not only enhance physical fitness but also contribute to higher levels of psychological well-being and overall quality of life. 

Following his cardiac rehabilitation journey, Mr. Ho has experienced significant improvements in his well-being through increased fitness levels, maintenance of a healthy diet, and an overall sense of improved vitality.

In the fast-paced environment of Singapore, where time is scarce and commitments are numerous, young individuals may not prioritize their health immediately, particularly if their symptoms don’t seem critical. 

Weekday programs are available at six restructured hospitals, while the Singapore Heart Foundation runs a similar program on Saturdays. Despite significant government funding for these programs, some patients may find it challenging to cover the remaining costs out of pocket.

Moreover, within the healthcare sector, there continues to be a prevalent presence of misunderstandings regarding cardiac rehabilitation, resulting in low referral rates. For example, certain physicians may provide their patients with false reassurance that they are fully recovered after undergoing treatments like coronary angioplasty or coronary artery bypass grafting. 

There is a common misunderstanding that exercising after a heart attack, even with procedures like stenting or bypass surgery, is unsafe. However, extensive research has proven that well-planned cardiac rehabilitation is actually safe and rarely leads to negative outcomes. In fact, numerous healthcare organizations worldwide are now providing home-based cardiac rehabilitation for eligible patients, including the Singapore Heart Foundation.

Caring for someone after a heart attack in Singapore is a crucial responsibility that requires knowledge, support, and patience. With the right information and resources, caregivers can provide the necessary assistance to their loved ones during their recovery journey. It is important to remember that physical health is interconnected with mental and emotional well-being, so caregivers should also prioritize their own self-care. By prioritizing the needs of our loved ones and staying informed about heart health, we can play an active role in preventing future heart attacks.


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