The Role of Nutrition in Cardiovascular Health
Lifestyle and diet changes can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke by up to 80% and even modest changes to the diet can reduce the risk of death from CVD. The foods that one consumes affect many of the risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease. Following a “heart-healthy diet” means eating foods that are high in vitamins, minerals and fibre, as well as low in sodium and fat. There are various nutritional recommendations surrounding the heart-healthy diet, including those on the increased consumption of fibre and decreased intake of saturated fats to reduce total cholesterol and overall risk of cardiovascular disease.
How Registered Dietitians (RDs) Make an Impact in Heart Health Care Outcomes?
The goal of nutrition intervention in cardiovascular health care is to educate clients on heart-healthy diet fundamentals, such as sodium and fibre intake, healthy fats and other beneficial nutrients, overcome barriers to sustainable life changes and managing weight to control cardiovascular health. These changes are made successful through the use of individual and personalized lifestyle change-based nutrition counselling. RDs analyze and evaluate patients’ health metrics related to cardiovascular health, including blood cholesterol and lipid levels, blood pressure and blood glucose, in addition to health behaviours, such as smoking habits, body weight, physical activity level and adequacy of diet.
Registered Dietitians work with clients, caregivers and other health care professionals in addressing health-related issues in a collaborative way. RD’s utilize many methods in order to help patients understand their diagnosis, make effective lifestyle and dietary changes and contribute to the management and treatment of various cardiovascular conditions:
Coronary Heart Disease (CHD)
CHD can be prevented through optimal nutrition, exercise, body weight and composition, moderate alcohol intake and avoiding smoking. All of these lifestyle factors can be achieved through the support and guidance of Registered Dietitians. Patients showing risk factors for CHD can be referred to RDs to learn about s and other healthy food and lifestyle choices help to control a CHD diagnosis, as well as prevent progression. Dietary treatment options for CHD include a plant-based diet, dietary approaches to stop hypertension (DASH) and the Mediterranean diet. These can be used together with pharmacologic agents or, in severe cases, surgical interventions if deemed appropriate by physicians.
Myocardial infarction occurs when blood flow to a section of the heart becomes blocked, preventing the transport of oxygen to the cardiac muscle. This blockage is usually caused by a buildup of fat, cholesterol and other substances in the coronary artery. Registered Dietitians help to control the modifiable risk factors for a heart attack and plaque build-up in the blood vessels, including blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels, body weight, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, etc. RDs teach patients and clients how to make healthy lifestyle choices to control these factors, prevent a repeat heart attack and improve overall quality of life. If a MI does occur, dietitians work with the client’s health care team to improve cardiovascular health and prevent future blockages.
High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is the number one risk factor for stroke and a major risk factor for heart disease. It is classified as having a blood pressure reading of 140/90 mmHg or greater, with normal range being around 120/80 mmHg. High blood pressure occurs when the pressure in the arteries caused by the force of blood pushing against the blood vessel walls is higher than normal. Registered Dietitians help patients understand how their diet impacts their blood pressure and which nutrients and minerals to consume or avoid. Similarly to CHD, DASH diets can be promoted to control hypertension, as they promote intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, fibre, low-fat dairy products, poultry, fish, seeds and nuts, as well as minerals such as potassium, magnesium and calcium. They also limit the consumption of red meat, sweets, sugar-sweetened beverages and sodium. DASH diets have been found to reduce blood pressure within 4 weeks by 10/5 mmHg or more, which is just as effective as some hypertension medications. DASH diets can have an effective impact on blood pressure while potentially eliminating the need for prescription medications.
A stroke occurs when the blood flow to the brain stops, causing damage to brain cells. The effect of a stroke depends on the location of the brain that was damaged, as well as the severity of the damage. Registered Dietitians play a role in the prevention of stroke in those who show risk factors, such as high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, diabetes and atherosclerosis, but they also play a large role in the stroke recovery process. RDs assess a patient’s eating and swallowing ability which may be impacted depending on the severity of the stroke. They identify foods and meals that will help in the recovery process through the consideration of nutritional needs, swallowing ability and food preferences.
A patient’s lipid profile typically measures the triglycerides and lipoproteins found in the blood. Lipoproteins are the form that cholesterol is carried in through the blood. High levels of low-density lipoproteins (LDL cholesterol) and low levels of high-density lipoproteins (HDL cholesterol), as well as high levels of triglycerides represent a poor lipid profile and puts patients at risk of various cardiovascular conditions. Poor lipid profiles are caused by poor diets, obesity, lack of exercise, smoking habits and Diabetes, all of which are modifiable risk factors which can be improved with the help of Registered Dietitians. RDs help evaluate a patient’s lipid profile and determine which lifestyle factors need to be altered to improve their lipid profile and reduce their risk of cardiac events. Proven dietary patterns from reducing cholesterol levels include limiting saturated fats, increasing soluble fibres and following a Mediterranean type diet.
Metabolic Syndrome is a group of health problems that include high waist circumference, hypertension, high triglyceride levels in the blood, elevated blood sugar and low HDL/high LDL cholesterol. Having three or more of these markers increases your risk of heart attacks, stroke, insulin resistance and diabetes, as well as the complications associated with these conditions. However, as chronic disease has not yet developed, lifestyle changes for those who have Metabolic Syndrome can greatly reduce their risk of developing disease. Metabolic Syndrome is caused by poor lifestyle behaviours, such as dietary choices, physical inactivity and excessive weight gain. Registered Dietitians are involved in the treatment of Metabolic Syndrome, with the main goal of reducing the patient’s risk of coronary artery disease and
diabetes. RDs utilize many approaches to treating and controlling Metabolic Syndrome, the most effective being weight loss and control through increasing physical activity and nutrition management. Evidence exists indicating that 70-80% of weight loss can be achieved through nutrition management.
About NutriProCan Registered Dietitians
An RD is a regulated and licensed health care professional that is university trained in the field of food and nutrition, combined with supervised practical experience.
They are experts in translating scientific, medical and nutrition information into practical terms that is easy to understand and implement by our clients.
Our RDs have an extensive background in the application of food science combined with behavioural coaching to drive lifelong change towards a healthy approach to food.
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