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Stroke Smart Magazine

November/December 2007

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Advice from a Dietitian

by Deb Vevea, RD, LD, CDE

Eating well after stroke is critical to your recovery. Choosing healthy foods can help you keep up your energy level for therapy, exercise and favorite holiday activities.

But making the right choices isn't always easy. There's so much information — some of it conflicting. To top it off, you may have unique nutritional issues related to your stroke, such as:

  • Swallowing or chewing problems
  • Trouble grasping or holding utensils
  • Post-stroke fatigue that reduces your energy for food prep
  • Loss of appetite
  • Use of only one hand
  • Blood pressure or cholesterol levels that need to be lowered Diabetes.

In fact, many stroke survivors suffer from malnutrition because they just aren't getting enough vitamins and minerals. But it doesn't have to be this way. A dietician can help. A dietician is a healthcare professional who teaches survivors about healthy eating and special diets (e.g. low salt, low fat, low calorie). A dietician can conduct help identify your special needs and then create a food plan that fits you. A dietician may suggest, for example, that you eat your main meal early in the day when you have energy, or that you use a crock pot. A dietician can help you achieve the right amount of food intake each day to keep your weight in the right range.

Good dieticians will have credentials after their name, such as RD (Registered Dietician), LD (Licensed Dietician) or LN (Licensed Nutritionist). These credentials mean they follow a code of ethics and are governed by a professional board.

Here are 3 ways to get good information from a dietician:

  1. 1) Check your local hospital for classes sponsored by the nutrition department or Stoke Support Programs.

  2. 2) Check your local school district community education for classes sponsored by a dietician.

  3. 3) You can see a dietician for a one-on-one consultation:

  • You can usually find one in a hospital or clinic out-patient department.
  • Be sure to inquire about cost before you go.
  • Insurance may cover the cost of seeing an RD if you have a referral from your doctor.
  • It falls under the area of Medical Nutrition Therapy (MNT).
  • Medicare covers the cost of MNT if you have Diabetes or early stage renal (kidney) disease. In fact, if you have these conditions Medicare will cover two hours each year to see an RD. Be sure to take advantage of these two hours a year; it is a great way to update yourself and get information on new products before you go shopping.
  • If you have supplemental insurance or private pay insurance, check to see if you have coverage for MNT. Insurance companies will usually cover what Medicare covers and sometimes may allow you to see a dietician for other conditions such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, poor appetite or obesity.


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National Stroke Association’s mission is to reduce the incidence and impact of stroke by developing compelling education and programs focused on prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and support for all impacted by stroke.

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