Cardiac Rehabilitation: Women’s Cardiovascular Health Initiative (WCHI)
Women's Cardiovascular Health Initiative (WCHI) is Canada's first gender-specialized Cardiac Rehabilitation Program. The program offers a comprehensive assessment and lifestyle program for women with cardiac conditions or those at high risk for heart disease. The program opened its doors in 1996 to provide cardiac rehabilitation and primary prevention for women. We are fully affiliated with the University of Toronto, actively training health-care professionals of the future. Our program also conducts innovative research focused on women and heart disease.
Cardiovascular disease is a leading cause of death in women. Cardiac rehabilitation has been shown to improve heart health, quality of life, maintain activity and reduce the risk of future cardiac events. A multidisciplinary health care team provides lifestyle counselling, education and support through individual and group sessions to manage cardiac risk factors. We offer both in-person and virtual programs. An on-site exercise program is available for those patients who require medical supervised exercise training.
For Physicians: Download the referral form.
Cardiac Rehab On-site and Virtual Programs:
Cardiac rehabilitation is an exercise, education and counseling program. Our goal is to help women recover from a heart attack, surgery, or help women living with a cardiac condition make healthy lifestyle changes, provide support and self-management tools to live a heart healthy life in their community
Our three to six month cardiac rehab program offers in-person and virtual services.
Virtual visits refer to:
individual appointments with a cardiac team member by telephone (internet not required)
individual video appointments AND synchronous live group video sessions. (using internet)
Whether your program is in-person or virtual it will include:
Initial assessment with our Advanced Practice Nurse
Heart clinic (orientation session for new participants) & Group education sessions on heart healthy topics
Review of your cardiac risk factor profile and goal-setting
Exercise consultation and exercise program
Individual consultation with a dietitian, social worker and pharmacist
Unique features include: Group education topics:
small group sessions (in-person and virtual)
goal-setting and self-management
a relaxed non-competitive atmosphere in a safe and comfortable setting
exercise and physical activity
a culturally sensitive patient-centered environment
heart healthy nutrition
a convenient downtown Toronto location
stress management and self-care
support from women with similar health concerns
counseling, education and support to achieve your heart health goals (through individual consults or in a group)
cardiac monitoring equipment during on-site gym sessions
medications, vitamins and supplements
a virtual home-based program via phone or video sessions
muscle and joint management
What to expect at for your first appointment:
For your safety and health, your first visit will most likely be virtual. We provide consults either by phone or video and you can choose which option would work best for you. If you want to do a video visit, we will ask that you sign up for myHealthRecord before the appointment. There is information on our website about how to sign up and then a team member will reach out to you to help arrange a video visit.
Sometimes it may be necessary for you to come in-person for your appointment and our team can help arrange that. If you require an essential caregiver to accompany you please let us know prior to the visit. Please see our visitor restrictions and screening protocols.
After receiving your referral from your doctor or nurse practitioner, one of our Program Coordinators will call you to discuss program options, review benefits of Cardiac Rehab and what to expect during your participation. They will schedule your first appointment with our Advance Practice Nurse.
For either a virtual or an in-person appointment please have the following easily available during your first visit:
- A list of your current medications (can also have pill bottles or blister pack)
- If you monitor your blood pressure or blood sugar at home, please have recent values ready to show or tell the Nurse
- If you know your weight and height, please have those values ready to tell the Nurse
- Questions related to your heart health to ask
- Names of clinicians you want updated on the outcome of your visit
After your appointment:
A member of the Cardiac Rehab Team will call you to review your program plan of care and what your next steps will be in the program.
We invite you to sign up for myHealthRecord. myHealthRecord is Women’s College Hospital’s online patient medical record that gives you access to your health information online at any time, from anywhere.
- Access to recent diagnostic tests and blood work
- Ability to message your healthcare team with non-urgent questions
- You can update your medications and health information
- An After Visit summary of your visit with the doctor will be available for review after your visit.
Become an active participant in your own healthcare by registering for myHealthRecord today. Instructions for registration located on our website.
Meet the Team:
Our team consists of Advance Practice Nurses, Physiotherapists, Registered Kinesiologists, and Dietitian. As part of our Cardiac Rehab program, you will also have access to social work and pharmacy services to provide you the highest quality care.
Advanced Practice Nurse and Medical Lead
- Dr. Jennifer Price RN, PhD
- Dr. Paula Harvey BMBS, PhD, FRACP
Therapy and Program
• Debbie Childerhose Reg.PT
• Mireille Landry Reg.PT
• Marija Radenovic Reg. PT
• Faith Delos-Reyes R.Kin
• Miriam Fong R.Kin
• Helen Emanoilidis RD
An excellent resource for many questions or concerns you may have about your heart and heart health can be located at Canada Heart and Stroke Foundation. We have also provided some specific resources about cardiac rehab, women and heart health, physical activity and information about different cardiac diagnoses below.
Please do not hesitate to reach out to your health care provider or a member of our team with any questions about your heart health.
Find COVID 19 resources for those with heart conditions here.
Women and heart disease:
Women’s unique risk factors:
Canadian Women’s Heart Health Centre tools & resources:
Peer Support Programs:
Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines:
Exercise resources in the community and for home:
Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome exercise videos:
Coronary heart disease and heart attacks:
- Coronary artery disease
- Angina (Chest pain)
- Heart Attack (also known as Myocardial Infarction)
- Spontaneous coronary artery dissection - Heart & Stroke
Irregular or Abnormal Heart Rhythms:
High blood pressure (also called Hypertension):
- Heart and stroke Managing your Blood pressure
- Hypertension Canada
- Guide to Lowering your Blood pressure with DASH diet (.pdf)
- Hypertension Canada Recommended blood pressure monitors
Dysautonomia and POTS (postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome):
Problems with Heart Valves (also known as Valvular Disease) (heart murmurs):
Congenital heart disease (heart defects you are born with):
Cardiac risk and inflammatory joint disease:
- Cancer Treatment and Your Heart - The American College of Cardiology CardioSmart