SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - After a coronary event like a heart attack or heart surgery, doctors send patients to cardiac rehab.
Cardiac rehab consists of both exercise and dietary changes. Aside from exercise, nutritionists help patients learn how to take care of their heart through what they eat.
"This is not again, just a specialized cardiac diet just for the person that has had heart disease, this is also preventive medicine for those that don't want to get heart disease," said Julie Hartley, a Registered Dietitian, licensed nutritionist, and certified health coach at Willis-Knighton.
68-year-old John Dockery was sent to cardiac rehab after he had heart surgery
"We want them to go through cardiac rehab just to retrain them their whole entire lifestyle, again. So it's not like we can just hand them a diet sheet and say 'go home and follow this.' We're really trying to work with them. They didn't get heart disease in a day, so they're not going to be able to reverse it or manage it in a day," Hartley said.
Experts say it's important to commit to the heart-healthy diet after a cardiac event, as it can improve your health as a whole.
"Food is medicine," Hartley explained.
Fruit, vegetables and whole grains are vital in the heart-healthy diet, and dietitians encourage eating healthy fish twice a week and watch those portion sizes.
"This is not really a cardiac diet, this is really a complete lifestyle change. In addition to exercise, the nutrition part plays a huge role in just the management of chronic disease," Hartley said.
Dockery says the diet and exercise have helped Dockery recover.
"They walked me through this whole thing. I came in shuffling my feet, and now I'm in pretty good shape," Dockery said.