February 14, 2023
February is American Heart Month, and today is Valentine’s Day, so it’s the perfect time to shine a light on our hearts and how nutrition impacts heart health. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in this country, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also notes nearly half of Americans have at least one of the three key risk factors for developing the condition: high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking.
Tragically, one person dies every 34 seconds in the U.S. from cardiovascular disease, and cardiovascular disease results in $351 billion in direct and indirect costs. While these statistics may be startling, there are ways to help manage — and prevent — this chronic condition, and significantly improve the health of more individuals. It begins with quality nutrition.
The role of heart-healthy nutrition
Nutrition can play a significant role in lowering the risk factors for developing heart disease, including helping people lower blood pressure and, cholesterol levels, manage diabetes, reduce inflammation and manage weight. Those who adopt a heart-healthy diet that is rich in foods like vegetables, fruits, nuts and legumes, and low in saturated fats and refined sugars, have a 31 percent lower risk of developing heart disease. While a balanced diet is crucial to improving heart health and preventing the onset of chronic conditions, many Americans have limited access to foods that promote health.
Improving food access and reducing health care costs with medically tailored meals
To take a closer look at the impact nutritious food and nutrition education can have on the lives of people with heart disease, Inland Empire Health Plan (IEHP) in California and Mom’s Meals® partnered in a pilot program in 2021. The program provided more than 28,000 fully prepared lower-sodium meals to 93 IEHP members over a 24-week period who have congestive heart failure and a minimum of two hospital stays within the previous year.
The individuals who ate these medically tailored meals also had access to other health-related tools for six months, such as fresh produce and dry goods boxes, nutrition education, a digital scale and home visits. The program resulted in a 50 percent reduction rate in both trips to the emergency room and hospitalizations, as well as increase in weight loss and greater medication adherence. In addition, cost to care for those in the pilot program fell from $7.2 million to $5.4 million annually; a 25 percent reduction.
Empowering healthy eating
Programs that focus on delivering quality nutrition can make a positive difference in the heart health of patients. They can also greatly reduce the economic burden of heart disease by lowering the cost of health care. Home-delivered meals are not only designed to help address food insecurity, but also reduce hospital admissions and readmissions.
By empowering more individuals to manage lifestyle-related risk factors like diet, we can begin to move the needle on lowering the prevalence and economic burden of heart disease in this country.
You can learn more about heart disease with our suite of materials, including our white paper, Nutrition’s Impact on Heart Disease. You can also find out how our medically tailored, home-delivered meals can help your clients maintain their health and independence at home. Please reach out to me with any questions you may have.