According to a recent review, cardiac rehabilitation is largely underused for cardiac care, especially compared with costly revascularization and medical therapy. York University professor Sherry Grace, PhD, along with Karam Turk-Adawi , PhD, and Nizal Sarrafzadegan, MD, conducted a review and found that while 68% of high-income countries have cardiac rehabilitation, only 23% of low-income and middle-income countries do, despite the fact that 80% of deaths from heart disease occur in these countries, as indicated on a news release from York University.

The authors of the review write that heart disease has become an epidemic in low-income and middle-income countries, and cardiac rehabilitation can reduce the socio-economic impact of the disease by promoting return to work and reducing premature mortality. Grace says rehabilitation programs must become an integral part of cardiac care to significantly reduce the burden of living with heart disease.

Grace states, “Cardiac rehabilitation is a cost-effective program offering heart patients exercise, education and risk reduction,” noting that participation results in 25% less death, lower re-hospitalization rates, and improved quality of life. Grace adds, “Cardiac rehabilitation services are insufficiently implemented, with only 39% of countries providing any.”

The York University news release notes that low-income countries such as Bangladesh, Afghanistan, and Kenya have one rehab program each for their entire population.

Grace says, “If supportive health policies, funding, physician referral strategies and alternative delivery modes are implemented, we could reduce the ratio from one cardiac rehab program per 6.4 million inhabitants in a middle income country like Paraguay, to the one program per 102,000 available in the US, a high income country.”

Source: York University