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Effectiveness of Intensive Cardiac Rehabilitation in High-Risk Patients with Cardiovascular Disease in Real-World Practice


Structured lifestyle interventions through cardiac rehabilitation (CR) are critical to improving the outcome of patients with cardiovascular disease (CVD) and cardiometabolic risk factors. CR programs' variability in real-world practice may impact CR effects. This study evaluates intensive CR (ICR) and standard CR (SCR) programs for improving cardiometabolic, psychosocial, and clinical outcomes in high-risk CVD patients undergoing guideline-based therapies. Both programs provided lifestyle counseling and the same supervised exercise component. ICR additionally included a specialized plant-based diet, stress management, and social support. Changes in body weight (BW), low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), and exercise capacity (EC) were primary outcomes. A total of 314 patients (101 ICR and 213 SCR, aged 66 ± 13 years, 75% overweight/obese, 90% coronary artery disease, 29% heart failure, 54% non-optimal LDL-C, 43% depressive symptoms) were included. Adherence to ICR was 96% vs. 68% for SCR. Only ICR resulted in a decrease in BW (3.4%), LDL-C (11.3%), other atherogenic lipids, glycated hemoglobin, and systolic blood pressure. Both ICR and SCR increased EC (52.2% and 48.7%, respectively) and improved adiposity indices, diastolic blood pressure, cholesterol intake, depression, and quality of life, but more for ICR. Within 12.6 ± 4.8 months post-CR, major adverse cardiac events were less likely in the ICR than SCR group (11% vs. 17%), especially heart failure hospitalizations (2% vs. 8%). A comprehensive ICR enhanced by a plant-based diet and psychosocial management is feasible and effective for improving the outcomes in high-risk CVD patients in real-world practice.

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