Physiotherapy and Coronary Heart Disease
Coronary heart disease—sometimes referred to as ischaemic heart disease (IHD) or coronary artery disease (CAD)—is chronic heart disease that is usually progressive and not curable.
It occurs when the coronary arteries become narrowed, causing less blood going to the heart muscle than is needed. This is most commonly caused by atherosclerosis of the coronary arteries, which is a progressive build-up of fatty material (plaque) in the arteries. Lack of blood supply to the heart can cause chest pain and discomfort (angina), and this sometimes occurs during exercise or when the heart rate is evaluated.
However, if the coronary artery is completely blocked this can cause a heart attack and is a medical emergency.
A doctor will help diagnose coronary heart disease. Often the symptoms are silent and, therefore, if you have any of the risk factors for coronary heart disease, you should discuss these with your doctor. Your doctor may do a variety of tests to try to determine if you have coronary heart disease and how severe it is, and may send you to a specialist medical doctor (such as a cardiac doctor) for assessment and treatment.
Coronary heart disease is diagnosed based on a history of symptoms (chest pain, such as angina) and results of a number of tests, including blood tests, an electrocardiogram (ECG), an echocardiogram and an angiogram. Because coronary heart disease cannot be cured, the treatment is focused on managing the condition and preventing the risk of future heart events, attacks or death.
In stable coronary heart disease, there are many things that people can do to keep healthy. Important components of management include stopping smoking, exercising (cardiac rehabilitation), managing weight and diet, and, sometimes, taking medications to reduce blood pressure and cholesterol. For people with unstable or more severe disease, the medical management may also include heart surgery.
Physiotherapy is important in the management of coronary heart disease. The cornerstone of physiotherapy management is cardiac rehabilitation. In patients undergoing heart surgery, physiotherapy can also help with recovery after surgery.
Your physiotherapist may see you before and after your surgery to help prevent a chest infection and regain your mobility and walking as soon as possible.
Cardiac rehabilitation is a program for people with a variety of cardiovascular diseases. The cornerstone of cardiac rehabilitation is exercise training. The program also involves education and support about managing the disease, including reducing risk factors, getting back to your usual life, managing your medications, psychological issues, maintaining a good diet and stopping smoking. Joining a cardiac rehabilitation program (widely available throughout Australia) is the easiest way to learn about how to exercise with your disease. At the cardiac rehabilitation program, a physiotherapist will measure your exercise capacity, your symptoms and your safety for exercise. They will teach you how to do the exercises and then supervise you exercising in the group environment once or twice a week for 6-8 weeks.
Speak to your doctor or physiotherapist for more information and to get a referral, it is the best thing you can do.
If you or a loved one is suffering from chronic heart disease and you want to find relief in physiotherapy, contact PCA on 0813 028 0496!