In the days following surgery, cardiac patients receive many visits, including one from the clinical dietitian, Cindy Liu, M.S., R.D. Her initial visit, on the third or fourth post-surgical day, is to introduce herself and to complete a nutritional assessment to assure her patients’ appetite has returned and they are eating—first liquids and then solid foods. “We may add supplements or snacks if necessary,” she notes.
Prior to discharge, Liu details the importance of adopting heart-healthy eating habits to prevent future cardiac-related problems. These dietary guidelines may include low salt, low fat or low cholesterol foods. During the consultation, she also answers any other questions her patients may have about nutrition. She individualizes their plan, making accommodations for food allergies, intolerances and any spiritual or cultural needs.
“We also tailor the diet to the support they have at home. That’s why it’s very important to have the family members who will be doing the cooking or grocery shopping present during this visit,” Liu says.
She also tries to find out if the patient will be able to follow a heart-healthy diet once they get home.
“Some people are fearful; they don’t have enough food or money available, or might not have the support necessary to follow a new diet,” she says.
Since patients have distractions during their hospital stay and are in the early part of their recovery, they may not be ready to discuss dietary recommendations in depth. In this case, she returns to spend more time with her patients and their families just before discharge.
Patients who choose to attend cardiac rehabilitation at NorthBay Medical Center following their discharge can receive additional nutritional counseling with Liu.