Heart disease and cancer are the top two causes of death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Proper nutrition can play a large part in reducing the risk of both chronic illnesses.
On the second Wednesday of March, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Day celebrates Registered Dietitian Nutritionists and healthcare professionals with expertise in nutrition and dietetics. These healthcare professionals work to promote healthy lifestyles and minimize the prevalence of conditions like heart disease and cancer. At LifeBridge Health, clinical dietitians support patients in the hospital and on an outpatient basis.
“I want to prevent my patients from developing further health problems,” says Mindy Athas, RDN, CSO, LDN, an outpatient clinical dietitian nutritionist at Carroll Hospital’s Tevis Center for Wellness who specializes in Medical Nutrition Therapy or MNT.
Athas sees patients age 14 and older with conditions that fall under MNT. These conditions include heart disease, cancer, overweight or obesity status, eating disorders, gastrointestinal problems and other medical conditions.
Patients younger than 14 can see the pediatric outpatient registered dietitian nutritionist to treat conditions that fall under MNT as well. Referred patients or community members can set up in-person or virtual appointments. The Tevis Center also provides in-person and virtual community nutrition educational events while the Diabetes Center offers one-on-one and group counseling.
Athas guides her patients towards a plant-based, fiber-rich diet that helps prevent heart disease, cancer and other critical conditions. However, a sensible diet coupled with regular exercise are not always enough to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
“Stress, minimal sleep and high cortisol levels all play a role in health complications including weight gain,” says Athas. “For this reason, I tailor my nutritional counseling sessions to focus on an individual patient’s nutritional, physical and emotional well-being.”
While an outpatient clinical dietitian works with referred patients and community members, inpatient dietitians focus on hospitalized patients battling acute illnesses and injuries that impact normal eating, digestion, absorption and swallowing.
Taylor Kasoff, RD, LDN and Margaret Tiss, RD, LDN, inpatient clinical dietitians at Sinai Hospital, assess, monitor and optimize the nutrition status of patients throughout their inpatient stay. With an interdisciplinary team of doctors, nurses, physical therapists, speech therapists and other clinicians, they coordinate patient medical and nutritional needs.
“Whether patients have cognitive issues, need a breathing tube or have trouble chewing or swallowing, we offer them adequate nutrition either by mouth or nutrition support,” says Tiss.
Kasoff experienced first-hand how dietary changes improve lives, which is one of many reasons she became a dietitian. “My mom had high cholesterol and changed the way my family and I ate,” says Kasoff. “She stopped buying Cosmic brownies and I started paying attention to what foods I was eating.”
A common misconception is that clinical inpatient dietitians severely restrict what patients can and cannot eat. However, the goal is to ensure that patients have enough nutrients to remain healthy.
“We liberalize a patient’s diet to increase their nutrition intake to prevent malnutrition,” says Tiss.
To learn how to obtain nutritional counseling services, visit Nutrition Counseling.