Importance of Nutrition Education During Cardiac Rehab

Health Professional

Hospital readmission rates are a reflection on quality of care. Poor care coordination and discharge planning combined with medication errors and adverse events such as infections contribute to readmission rates. For those being treated for heart disease, poor diet and medication compliance are the most common reasons for readmission.

Cardiac Rehab with Nutrition Education

Researchers have analyzed the effectiveness of cardiac rehabilitation programs, particularly programs that provide a nutrition education component versus those that do not.

One retrospective study reviewed data from 73 cardiac rehabilitation patients who attended nutrition classes. All 30-minute classes were taught by the same registered dietitian incorporating dietary guidelines recommended by the American Heart Association Adult Treatment Panel III and Therapeutic Lifestyle Change diet.

Participants were categorized based on number of classes attended. One session offered twelve nutrition classes and a second session offered a condensed version with six nutrition classes.

Dietary fat intake was used to assess diet quality pre- and post-rehab. Researchers concluded nutrition education classes taught during cardiac rehabilitation studies do reduce dietary fat intake among participants with the greatest benefit likely being for those consuming greater than 30% of their daily calories from fat prior to beginning cardiac rehab.

Dietary Interventions for Optimal Rehab Outcomes

Not all cardiac rehab programs provide nutrition education. Many cardiac rehab programs provide components that are not mandatory to attend.

This means your health post hospital admission is largely dependent on you and your choices.

Some items to consider for optimal outcomes...

  1. Do you understand your discharge instructions? If not, ask questions.
  2. Do you have a follow-up appointment scheduled with your doctor?
  3. Are you taking your medication as prescribed?
  4. Are you participating in a cardiac rehab program? If not, is there one available at your facility and should you be partaking? Discuss with your doctor.
  5. Ask your doctor for a referral to a registered dietitian? This may be covered by your insurance.

Heart disease is largely a lifestyle disease, meaning your diet and lifestyle choices influence your risk. If you are confused about what you should and should not be eating, be proactive and seek out the answers. Doctors do not typically spend a lot of time on education. Instead, get referrals to other providers for needed education and guidance, such as a registered dietitian for dietary education and a physical therapist to determine what is and is not safe for you to do physically depending on your heart condition.

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