Cardiac rehabilitation in the elderly
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- Oldridge, N. Aging Clin Exp Res (1998) 10: 273. doi:10.1007/BF03339789
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Rehabilitation for patients with heart disease consists of exercise training, behavioral interventions, counseling, and education with the goal of improving physiologic and psychosocial status. The Cardiac Rehabilitation Clinical Practice Guidelines, recently published in the United States, list the most substantial benefits of cardiac rehabilitation as an improvement in exercise tolerance, symptoms, blood lipid levels, and psychosocial well-being, and a reduction in cigarette smoking, stress, and mortality. With the evidence-base on the elderly in the Guidelines derived from 1 non-randomized controlled trial and 7 observational studies, the efficacy and effectiveness of cardiac rehabilitation is based almost exclusively on data generated on young and middle-aged males. We have located an additional 10 randomized and 2 non-randomized controlled trials published since the Guidelines, but only one provided age-specific data. The elderly are the fastest growing segment of the population, and may be more responsive to the effects of cardiac rehabilitation as they often have greater initial disability and less independence than younger patients. While referral of elderly persons to cardiac rehabilitation services appears safe and warranted in the secondary prevention of heart disease, the lack of rigorous scientific evidence has created an important clinical research and clinical policy vacuum which urgently needs to be filled.