Successful Implementation of Healthful Nutrition Initiatives into Hospitals

By Katrina Hartog, MPH, RD
Article originally published by the American Journal of Medicine.

Poor dietary quality is a leading contributor to mortality in the United States, and to most cardiovascular risk factors. By providing education on lifestyle changes and, specifically, dietary changes, hospitals have the opportunity to use the patient experience as a "teachable moment." The food options provided to inpatients and outpatients can be a paradigm for patients to follow upon discharge from the hospital. There are hospitals in the United States that are showcasing novel ways to increase awareness of optimal dietary patterns and can serve as a model for hospitals nationwide.

In the last 60 years, the United States has experienced notable declines in cardiovascular disease mortality, largely due to advances in primary and secondary prevention addressing established risk factors for cardiovascular disease, including hypertension, diabetes mellitus, hypercholesterolemia, obesity, and tobacco use. Due to continued suboptimal dietary patterns coupled with sedentary behaviors, the prevalence of weight problems has increased, and nearly 70% of American adults are either overweight or obese. Moreover, hypertension-associated morbidity has been recognized at lower blood pressure thresholds, prompting contemporary hypertension guidelines to advocate for more aggressive therapeutic targets via lifestyle counseling and drug therapies.

Dietary change is a key focus in the prevention of disease. Dietary patterns that emphasize plant-based foods, as opposed to animal-derived products, are associated with reductions in cardiovascular risk. Specifically, vegetarian and vegan diets have been shown to improve plasma lipids, body weight, blood pressure, and glycemic control, and, in the context of a healthful lifestyle, reverse coronary atherosclerosis.

Read the full publication here