Many of our patients are forced to eat a “heart healthy,” usually in response to some sort of medical emergency. Sadly, many people react to a change in health status, rather than taking a preventative approach before confronted with illness. Most cardiac patients are discharged on low-fat, low sodium diets. As I thought about this concept, I decided to look at my own diet in hopes of finding preventative foods early in my life. When I cook at home I feel that I make pretty healthy choices and use a lot of fresh, low-sodium ingredients. We typically eat leaner proteins, like turkey and chicken, and usually buy the “healthier option.” I almost never add extra salt to any of my meals, but I know I consume way too much salt when I am in a hurry or dine out. Prepackaged items are loaded with salt, and unfortunately, sometimes I choose them or the convenience rather than health. I also work in a restaurant that is known for salty stuff. Many of my customers ask, “please don’t put salt on my food” and I always thought this was sort of a weird request. After hearing it a few times, I decided to really look for the salt in my next meal there. Too my surprise, I had to agree that the food was INCREDIBLY salty. It was shocking to me because I have always eaten there and never thought much about the obvious saltiness. I think that our society is almost immune to realizing how salty food is because its almost the norm, or they don’t know that it can still taste good without the salt.
This project made me really put myself in the shoes of a cardiac patient confronted with a new diet. Healthy food is more expensive, requires more preparation, and involves a degree of nutritional knowledge. Many of these patients may not have the resources necessary to easily transition to a salt-free, low-fat diet. Even for myself, who has good resources, it would be difficult to adjust to a completely new diet overnight. If a patient enjoys dining out frequently, this change might be even more difficult. I think its important to be understanding and helpful when a patient attempts to switch their lifestyle. It is so important to consider their resources and abilities when expecting them to switch. Providing affordable recipes, suggesting better alternatives, and techniques for eating healthier in restaurants can all be beneficial as they make an effort to support a healthy heart!