An estimated 80 million (nearly one in three) Americans have cardiovascular disease, which is the leading cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide. In the United States alone, more than 850,000 deaths are attributed annually to cardiovascular disease, and more than 8 million Americans have had a heart attack. Nearly 7 million cardiovascular procedures are performed annually in U.S. hospitals. Cardiac rehabilitation is a comprehensive program of patient evaluation, risk factor reduction (e.g., lipid control, weight management), physical activity, and longitudinal care designed to reduce the effects of cardiovascular disease, and is an effective means of mitigating disease and disability. Family physicians incorporate many of the fundamental principles of comprehensive cardiac rehabilitation into their daily practices. However, the use of dedicated cardiac rehabilitation programs serves to further reinforce the principles of nutrition, physical activity, risk factor reduction, and wellness. Cardiac rehabilitation services are underused in the United States, even though there is evidence that structured programs improve quality of life and reduce mortality for patients with coronary artery disease and other select forms of cardiovascular disease.
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