Congestive Heart Failure and Cardiac Rehabilitation

Cardiac Rehab programs now open to heart failure patients

 

Many who could benefit from attending cardiac rehabilitation didn’t have a coverable diagnosis. Yes they had significant heart disease with congestive heart failure, but were not covered to attend rehabilitation. For many years I assisted in fighting to get this coverage. It is wonderful to see it finally here. This opens access to many patients who would benefit from exercise, lifestyle intervention, education, prevention and managing of their chronic heart disease.

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Congestive Heart Failure Patients finally Get Cardiac Rehabilitation

Congestive Heart Failure Patients finally Get Cardiac Rehabilitation

This is great news. I worked for many years petitioning our Congress and Senate to urge CMS to cover Cardiac Rehabilitation services for Congestive Heart Failure patients. There is a large subset of patients who can be much better served and monitored through cardiac rehabilitation to prevent readmissions. Congratulations to the AACVPR for helping attain this coverage from CMS, that is a very big deal.

 

 

 

WASHINGTON — Medicare has proposed covering cardiac rehabilitation services for patients with chronic heart failure 4 years after saying there was little evidence to support doing so.

The proposed coverage decision would expand access to rehab for a wider range of heart patients. Medicare currently covers rehab only for patients who have had an acute MI in the preceding year, coronary artery bypass surgery, heart or heart-lung transplant, or other major events.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) came to the determination after reviewing literature on the rehab service from 2006 to August 2013. It announced the decision online late last week.

“Since chronic heart failure often results from coronary artery disease and hypertension, evidence on behavioral interventions in the treatment of these conditions provide additional supportive evidence,” the agency wrote. “With the accumulated evidence that supports the benefits of the individual components of cardiac rehabilitation programs, the evidence is sufficient to determine that participation in these multi-component programs improves health outcomes for Medicare beneficiaries with chronic heart failure.”

The agency is seeking public comments on the proposed decision and will post a final determination later.

Under the proposal, the agency would pay for rehab services — exercise, behavioral risk factor reduction, health education, and personal counseling — for patients with left ventricular ejection fraction of 35% or less and New York Heart Association class II to IV symptoms with at least 6 weeks of heart failure therapy.

The American Heart Association praised the CMS announcement.

“We are gratified that the agency recognized the evidence that pointed to the need for this expansion, and look forward to the day when this coverage will enable millions of heart failure patients to reap the benefits of cardiac rehabilitation,” AHA President Mariell Jessup, MD, said in a statement.

The AHA, along with the American College of Cardiology, the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation, and the Heart Failure Society of America had asked CMS to consider adding CHF for coverage of cardiac rehab.

The CMS decision follows a study of nearly 2,300 patients that showed that aerobic exercise is safe for heart failure patients and effectively improves clinical outcomes. The patient population CMS is including is effectively the same as that in the trial, Ileana Pina, MD, professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, N.Y., told MedPage Today in a phone interview.

“Even though we knew all the good things exercise can do, a lot of physicians were not recommending it because the patients would have to pay out of pocket to go to a cardiac rehab program,” Pina, vice chair of the clinical cardiology council at the AHA, said.

She said many patients without this rehab option end up going to skilled nursing facilities because of their condition.

Roughly 17% of those age 65 and older have heart failure, according to CMS.

Exercising with heart disease

Start slow and add a little more over time. Make it feel  as if when finished feel like you could have done more easily. Begin exercising at this intensity for several sessions before making large increases in your intensity or effort required to be physically active. . Remember the whole goal is to adapt, and by doing so the body is changing how it responds. In the early recovery stage  the exercise prescription is very light. Do you know What exercise prescription is best for you?

Since exercise should be part of your everyday routine in order to make it a lifelong habit  injury avoidance is important to be aware of overuse signs and symptoms, to rest those muscles when needed.  Occasionally cardiovascular disease patients develop Peripheral Artery Disease and symptoms can present similarly to overuse. Pain should signal the body to be aware that something is going on.  Take some time to evaluate that pain, what happens with it, does it always come on at a certain time or point of the exercise or activity? How long does it take to go away? Can it be avoided while being active by another means for instance switching from walking to biking?  Make sure you communicate these findings with your healthcare practitioner as they could be signals of other health conditions related to heart disease and it’s recovery.

Some exercise and activity is better than none, so start slowly. Even a warmup is better than no exercise session here is why  warming up before strenuous activity helps your heart.

Don’t expect results overnight, but do take small steps each day. Move that blood around, push it through the muscles. Make the muscles use the oxygen in the blood  more efficiently. Exercise helps the the heart recover and stay strong.

You might not notice any big changes—especially in your weight—for a few weeks or even months. It is still good for your heart health! It is not all about weight loss. Forget the scale for a while. In fact many who initially start to exercise following hospitalization are  Sedentary at the start and will gain a couple of pounds. It is their muscles getting pumped up, holding and utilizing more blood flow. Generally the focus on how you feel.

 When not to exercise is if you are presenting with Signs and symptoms of heart problems. Exercise should be avoided if  if you are presenting with congestive heart failure, or are presently sick. When returning to exercise following illness 

Symptoms to be alert for include these.

Symptoms of Congestive Heart Failure

These are the common symptoms of congestive heart failure.

If you suspect you are in heart failure see your healthcare practitioner ASAP. Ask for a BNP to be drawn this is B-type natriuretic peptide measure which helps to quantify the seriousness of CHF. If it is over 100 it is positive, and the higher it is the more emergent it is. It also helps to determine if the treatment is effective.  With long term use of diuretics it isn’t uncommon for the body to become resistant to a particular diuretic and then medications must be re evaluated. There are many diuretic out there and sometimes it is just a matter of finding the right combination for you. It is vitally important that you not rely solely on the medication but do your part in necessary prevention of CHF.

Prevention Measure of CHF

These include watching sodium intake and striving for 1500 mg in a day and no more, avoiding sitting for long periods of time, being vigilant in High heat and humidity, exercise, eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables – dash diet. Steps to lower risk for congestive heart failure can be found here.