November 27, 2011

Cardiovascular Disease: can you escape it?

I have had the privilege of working with a Registered Dietitian at Hines VA Hospital for the past three weeks in the cardiology department.  These patients typically come in with problems such as congestive heart failure, heart attacks, strokes, and blockages in their arteries.  The medical team run tests to find the exact cause, they prescribe specific medications, surgery or therapy depending on what they find, and we support them with nutrition education!  It is absolutely critical to understand these patient’s lab results, medication interactions, and the lifestyle habits that created the disease in order to intervene with a diet that supports their health. 

We’ve all heard over and over that “heart disease is the #1 killer of Americans!”, but I didn’t truly grasp the meaning until I started interacting with my patients at the hospital.  Let me tell you, these cardiovascular diseases are extremely serious, painful, scary, and hard to recover from.  Many of the patients have a long history of smoking, are obese, and eat very low quality food.  There is so much each of us can do in our day-to-day life RIGHT NOW to prevent going down this road.  

I had the opportunity last week of teaching a “Heart Healthy” nutrition class to a group of patients who are recovering from cardiac surgeries.  Here is the hand-out I’ve created for them:

Heart Healthy Class

Now, my audience at the hospital is a little different than the general population.  Also, these are people who already have heart disease.  However, there are some things we all can do to lower our risk for cardiovascular disease.  For the average person:

Reach and maintain a healthy body weight
Incorporate physical activity into your daily life
Replace foods high in saturated fat with unsaturated fat sources
Increase the amount of fiber in your diet (from food sources)
Stay away from trans fats (look for "hydrogenated" on the label!)

My class went over very well.  The patients were receptive and drilled me on all the hot topics:  red wine, sea salt vs. table salt, chocolate, egg yolks.  I'm not positive my "heart healthy" recipes were that well received....quinoa with walnuts and blueberries for breakfast and a black bean burger with a whole wheat bun.  One step at a time I guess....I'm freaking people out with my crazy Seattle ways!

1 comment:

  1. Love your crazy Seattle ways! Keep it up! (great handout too :)