Congestive Heart Failure and Nutrition

By Dr. Sean M. Wells, PT, DPT, ATC/L, OCS, CSCS, CNPT, Cert-DN

Cardiac physical therapy is a rewarding area of PT practice that takes precision, complex thinking, and a team of specialists working toward a common goal. Often patients in cardiac rehabilitation present with chest pain (angina), ischemic heart disease, stents, bypass surgeries, and/or heart failure.

Doctors of physical therapy do their best to push these patients to maximize their endurance, functioning, and cardiac capability. We often do this through various interventions like treadmill exercises, stepping, strengthening, and breathing techniques.  After a recent study, nutrition may be one of those interventions that PTs need to focus more on.

New Study

Published in the British Journal of Nutrition, researchers found a correlation with plant-focused diets, like the MIND and Mediterranean diets, with left ventricular function. Specifically the researchers looked at cohort sample of 2,512 patients from the Framingham study and examined their dietary patterns relative to their cardiac function. The specific cardiac metrics included left ventricular (LV) ejection fraction, left atrial emptying fraction, LV mass (LVM), E/e’ ratio (dependent variables; primary), global longitudinal strain, global circumferential strain (GCS), mitral annular plane systolic excursion, longitudinal segmental synchrony, LV hypertrophy and aortic root diameter (secondary).

Among those with stricter adherence to the MIND diet the researchers found better cardiac functioning, specifically better LV functioning. This may prove to be very impactful for patients with congestive heart failure and other related cardiac diseases. 


What did the diet look like? The MIND diet focuses on reducing animal protein, saturated fats, while boosting intake of fruits (like berries), greens, and other whole foods like whole grains. The MIND diet has had solid evidence in the last decade or so with data connecting it to improved cognition and reduced odds of other neurodegenerative diseases. Perhaps now we can see that what is good for the brain is indeed good for the heart as well!

What does this mean for PT?

Physical therapists are doctorally prepared leaders and we can educate our patients and engage our clinics and facilities to embrace evidence-based metrics, using studies such as this one to promote healthy eating. Speaking with our patients about reducing saturated fat, increasing whole fruits and vegetables, while also pushing them physically will optimize their cardiac and health outcomes. Engaging dietitians, nurses, and physicians to promote a more whole-food, plant-based diet will help patients with CHF get better, faster!

If you like what you see here then know there is more in our 3 board-approved continuing education courses on Nutrition specific for Physical Therapists. Enroll today in our new bundled course offering and save 20%, a value of $60!


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Learn about the Top 5 Functional Foods to Fight Inflammation and Pain in Physical Therapy. 

Photo by Liza Summer from Pexels

Keywords: nutrition, diet, continuing education, online, cardiac rehab, heart, PT, physical therapy, learning, physio, cardiac

Disclaimer: The above article is written as opinion piece and does not convey specific legal, medical, and/or practice act advice. 



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