The field of cardiac medicine is known for its high-tech treatments such as bypass surgery, stents and defibrillators, yet the treatments that may offer the most long term benefit, cardiac rehabilitation programs, are often ignored. Such programs significantly reduce the chance a patient will die from cardiac issues, but few seniors take advantage of these life-sustaining treatments despite their being covered by Medicare.

According to the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, a mere 12 percent of seniors eligible to participate in programs that promote exercise, healthy eating, blood pressure and cholesterol management and smoking cessation do so. Patients who take part in cardiac rehabilitation programs after heart attacks, heart transplants, bypass surgeries, heart valve surgeries and angioplasty lower their mortality rate by one-third over five years.

Despite the success of cardiac rehabilitation, doctors often do not refer patients to such programs. Nearly half of eligible patients do not receive referrals, and the rate is even lower for seniors, according to a report in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. Patients who do receive referrals often elect not to take part in cardiac rehabilitation programs for various reasons, including low motivation, depression and resistance to lifestyle changes.