The cardiac rehab dietitian
Katherine Paterson is the clinical lead dietitian at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. She runs joint clinics with specialist nurses and leads nutrition education sessions as part of the cardiac rehab programme.
How does cardiac rehabilitation differ to the way you might work with patients with other conditions?
The joint clinic where a patient meets both a dietitian and specialist nurse at the same time means we can work more holistically. The cardiac rehab group sessions use a different approach too. The way we run them is that people have to choose to come to the sessions with the dietitian. It’s encouraging because you know that the participants want to learn about the topic.
What are the most important dietary changes that people can make after they have had a heart attack?
Swap foods that are high in saturated fat for lower saturated fat choices.
It’s also important to cut down on salt to help lower blood pressure, and swap foods that are high in saturated fat for lower saturated fat choices to help manage cholesterol levels. That means using unsaturated fat spreads and oils instead of animal fats like butter, lard and ghee and choosing lower fat milk and dairy products. If people want to lose weight, then portion sizes are also vital.
What are the things that people find easiest to change?
Smokers who give up can find they get their taste buds back, so they may not need to add so much salt to food, which is a bonus. Making small changes to cooking methods is pretty simple too, such as trimming fat off meat or taking the skin off chicken.
What about the things that people seem to find more difficult?
Cheese seems to be a big problem for many people. But they often don't realise that today’s reduced-fat are much more palatable than they used to be. Also, most people don't realise that the fat content of cheese can vary quite widely. For example, there’s a considerable difference between cheeses that are naturally high in fat like Stilton or Cheddar, medium-fat cheese like feta or mozzarella, and low-fat cottage cheese.
Read what the community dietitian had to say
Read what the hospital dietitian had to say
Read our tips for a heart-healthy diet