"In the same way that you have a physician whom you see regularly to manage your medical needs, everyone should also see an RD routinely for help in managing your nutritional needs," says registered dietitian and American Dietetic Association spokesperson Joan Salge Blake.
Salge Blake, a faculty member at Boston University, says her students - and their families and friends - are amazed to discover how small lifestyle changes, such as adding more vegetables to their daily eating plans, quickly add up and pay big health dividends over time. Registered dietitians use their nutrition expertise to help individuals make just these types of unique, positive lifestyle changes.
"Through annual visits to a registered dietitian for a 'nutrition checkup,' individuals can obtain dietary advice and guidance based on their changing health needs," Salge Blake says. "These checkups enable you to not only address nutrition and health problems as they occur, but most importantly, prevent problems that are potentially looming down the road.
"Do you have high cholesterol or high blood pressure? Are you dangerously overweight or even just have a few pounds to lose? Don't wait until you have a stroke or a heart attack. The RD's role is to take our expertise based on the current nutrition science and personalize it to fit your individual lifestyle," Salge Blake says.
"People often are not aware that many health insurance plans now cover visits to a registered dietitian, sometimes without a doctor's referral," Salge Blake adds, "so check with your insurance company." In 2002, Medicare began reimbursing for medical nutrition therapy provided by an RD for people with diabetes and kidney disease, and private insurers increasingly are covering visits to registered dietitians for treatment of obesity, high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol levels.
Insurance coverage is only one of the benefits of choosing a registered dietitian over someone calling him- or herself a "nutritionist," who could be anyone from a personal trainer to a health food store employee. Nutritionists may have little or no qualifications for dispensing nutrition advice, Salge Blake says. "Only an RD has the education and the experience to give you the latest personalized information based on solid scientific evidence."
With more than 67,000 members, the American Dietetic Association is the nation's largest organization of food and nutrition professionals. ADA serves the public by promoting optimal nutrition, health and well-being. To locate a registered dietitian in your area, visit the American Dietetic Association at www.eatright.org.
Bartlett Regional Hospital has two Registered Dietitians on staff: Linda Wild MS, RD, LD, the Food and Nutrition Services Manager for the facility, and Nancy Duhaime MS, RD, LD.
Both see patients on an inpatient and outpatient basis. A physician referral is not necessary, except for diabetes counseling for insurance reimbursement requirements.