Dietitians: Your Allies in the Fight Against Heart Disease
Donít hesitate to take advantage of this valuable resource to help you learn more about the connection between heart health and diet.
If you have atherosclerotic heart disease or the risk factors for it, you may benefit from nutrition counseling by a registered dietitian. Don’t let unfounded fears prevent you from taking advantage of the valuable advice a dietitian can provide.
“We’re not going to take away all the food you love or tell you to become a vegetarian. It’s all about moderation and balance,” says Kate Patton, RD, M.Ed., a registered dietitian in Cleveland Clinic’s Heart & Vascular Institute.
A dietitian will take your primary concern—for example, fluid retention in heart failure, diabetes, high cholesterol or triglycerides, high blood pressure or too many extra pounds—and tweak your diet to reduce your risk. Patton says it’s all about making swaps and substitutions.
“All foods can fit into a balanced diet,” Patton says.
How counseling works
At your first visit, the dietitian will gather information on your eating and exercise habits. (Writing down everything you eat for a week before the visit can be helpful in this regard.)
The dietitian will ask you about any dietary modifications you have tried in the past, and what foods you think are good and bad for you.
“What you read in the paper or on the internet doesn’t always apply to everyone,” she says.
Depending on your goal, the dietitian may discuss hidden sources of sodium or sugar, explain portion control and how to balance a meal, or provide tips on satisfying your cravings in healthier ways.
The goal is that you leave the meeting knowing how to make better food choices.
You may also leave with an appointment for your next visit. Patton often schedules the second visit for the same day a patient returns for their follow-up visit with the doctor. This allows her to check a patient’s progress and review recent blood test results. “Lab results give me an idea whether the patient has made the changes we discussed, and whether these changes have had an impact,” she says.
Medicare covers the cost of dietary counseling for patients with diabetes or kidney disease. Private coverage varies widely. Don’t let lack of coverage deter you from seeing a dietitian. The knowledge you gain can improve your heart health.
“It is so worth it to have one or two visits,” says Patton.