New programme and app help give NHS patients living with heart conditions the confidence and skills to exercise safely

This self-care week (18 to 24 November 2019), people taking part in cardiac rehabilitation classes in Cambridge will be given an innovative integrated health monitoring app called Active+me, developed by a Cambridgeshire-based innovator, Aseptika Ltd.

_Cardiac rehabilitation programme participants at Addenbrooke's - Credit Eastern AHSN 18-11-19 1

Active+me is being piloted by Eastern AHSN (Academic Health Science Network) and Cambridge University Hospitals (Addenbrooke’s) to give local cardiac patients guided support so that they can exercise safely, monitor their health and improve how they feel about being able to cope living with a heart condition. 

Cardiac rehabilitation is a free programme of education and training available on the NHS to anyone who has had a heart attack, cardiac surgery or a diagnosis of heart failure. There is no time limit for starting the course after being discharged from hospital, but patients are encouraged to join cardiac rehab as soon as they are physically able, in order to get the best results.

The programme includes classes in which patients are guided to exercise safely and appropriately, but what makes this initiative different is that alongside the classes, patients are also given monitors to record their health metrics at home and upload these to an app to be shared with their personal health coach.

It is well known that regular exercise can help reduce the risk of developing heart disease. But it is less commonly understood that regular activity is one of the best ways for patients to make a good recovery after a heart attack or other cardiac event and get back to performing daily activities. Nationally, only 52% of patients discharged from hospital after a heart attack sign up for the free exercise programme and education provided by the NHS.

Health benefits of exercise include reduced fatigue, anxiety, depression, cholesterol levels, blood pressure, an improved return-to-work rate, and the ability to take part in leisure activities. Exercise reduces the chance of having a second heart attack by 20-30 percent.

The first patient to enrol on the Active+me programme via Addenbrookes in Cambridge, Mark Fiddian, said: “Using the devices and app on my phone provided through the Active+me programme has enabled me to track and review my own health data with ease, so I can take an active role in managing my condition. Now when I meet my GP, I am so much more confident in talking about my health, arriving with all the information I need for an informed discussion. But over and above this it has made me understand what I can do myself to improve my health and both see and feel the positive effects.”

Depending on each individual patient’s activity levels and abilities, class participants are given specific exercise prescriptions over an 8-week supported class, with four weeks free Active+me classes included, though clinicians generally recommend 30 minutes of moderately intense aerobic exercise five times a week.

“With more than 26,000 people recorded as living with heart disease in Cambridge and Peterborough and an ageing population, we have a growing need to address the unique health issues facing people living with heart disease and support patients in our region to safely manage their health and reduce the chances of them having to go back to hospital,” said Alan Darby, Cardiac Rehabilitation Lead Practitioner, Addenbrooke’s Hospital.

To register for classes, patients need to have a qualifying heart condition, live in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough and be referred by their Cardiologist or GP.

For more information, contact Classes are run across multiple locations in Cambridge, have started now, and last for a duration of eight weeks.

Image: Cardiac rehabilitation programme participants at Addenbrooke's - Credit Eastern AHSN 18-11-19 1

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