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August 1, 2006 > Proper Nutrition is a Winning Solution

Proper Nutrition is a Winning Solution

Dietitians Focus on Healthy Choices In and Out of the Hospital

Eating. We do it every day, sometimes without a lot of thought. It’s a vital part of living, and it’s also enjoyable. What we consume also has a major impact on our health, in some obvious and not so obvious ways, from weight management to helping prevent some types of chronic diseases.

Washington Hospital registered clinical dietitians Anna Mazzei and Lorie Roffelsen are acutely aware of how diet and nutrition affect health.

"There are so many studies that show the relationship between what we eat and how it affects our risk for a number of conditions," according to Roffelsen. "What we eat, directly affects our health."

A large part of the dietitians’ role in an outpatient setting is educating patients, especially after surgery or a hospital stay for chronic medical conditions such as diabetes. Nutrition counseling, in many ways, plays just as big a role as medications or surgical procedures, and is aptly referred to as medical nutrition therapy.

"Our role is to assess nutrition needs, and a big part of our job is education in terms of nutrition and how it can impact chronic disease," Roffelsen explains. "For example, it’s important to understand about different foods and how we categorize them for a patient with diabetes. If it’s high blood pressure, we focus on sodium in foods. If it’s high cholesterol, we focus on a low-fat and low-cholesterol diet. It depends on a patient’s diagnosis and what his or her referral is for. With most of the meal plans, we discuss meal portions. As a nation, we’re eating larger portions of starches and other kinds of foods - including soda - than we used to 20 years ago."

Individual needs, individualized counseling

"The beauty of one-on-one counseling is that it’s tailored to the individual patient’s lifestyle, culture, habits, age, sex and medical history," says Mazzei. "We look at different aspects of a patient’s lifestyle, as well as things you may not be doing that also affect your health. We’re looking at the patient as a whole."

Because each person is different, nutrition counseling for each patient is different. The dietitians see patients with a range of conditions, including Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and other gastrointestinal disorders, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes, and in some cases they also see pediatric patients.

"I see patients with type II diabetes in the pediatric population as a result of increased weight," Mazzei says. "But most of the patients I see in pediatrics are for preventive measures, such as age-appropriate weight management. We’re looking to slow down the weight gain before it becomes a problem."

Roffelsen adds that family counseling centered on healthy eating and the right amount of activity plays a big role in helping to prevent some chronic health conditions, such as diabetes, in children.

 Keeping patients healthy in the hospital

In addition to performing outpatient counseling, dietitians also have an important function while patients are in the hospital for care.

"The inpatient dietitians screen patients for potential nutritional problems," Mazzei explains. "They perform patient education. They also recommend tube feedings and I.V. (intravenous drip), as well as consider individual patient needs, monitor daily nutrition and make sure patients receive adequate nutrition, for example, in stroke patients who sometimes can’t swallow."

Nutrition, according to Mazzei and Roffelsen is an important part of preventing health problems; it’s also important when you’re in the hospital; and it’s especially important as a follow-up measure for those leaving the hospital’s care after treatment.

Educating the community

Another element of education the dietitians participate in is for the community. Each quarter, Washington Hospital holds several free Health & Wellness education classes focusing on different health topics. Next month, Lorie Roffelsen and Dr. Barbara Kostick, medical director of Washington Hospital’s Community Health Services will co-present "Weight Management and Healthy Diet for Children."

The class will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 11, in Rooms A & B of the Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditorium located at 2500 Mowry Avenue in Fremont.

To register for any Health & Wellness class or to receive your free copy of the Health & Wellness Catalog, call Health Connection at (800) 963-7070.

Washington Hospital also offers one-on-one counseling sessions with a registered dietitian to help patients learn how to control existing medical conditions through proper nutrition. Individual nutrition counseling requires a doctor’s referral. To learn more, call (510) 745-6597.

Visit www.whhs.com and click on "Services and Programs" to learn more about services at Washington Hospital that can benefit you and your family.

 
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