As a cardiology nurse working in the NHS I never anticipated that taking pretty photos of food would become one of my priorities, but if it helps our patients and followers towards improving their heart health, then I’m more than happy to be busily snapping away with my mobile. I’m always looking out for an opportunity, creating my next pictorial health message for social media or our website.
I’m Mary Anne Fifield, and as Cardiologist’s Kitchen Project Manager, I am continually updating our feeds on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. It is written into my job description, a crucial element of my role. We’re reaching out to people where they are and many of us are constantly checking our feeds online.Coronary heart disease is a major cause of death both in the UK and worldwide. Patients tell us they feel confused about what they should eat to look after their hearts. We know exactly how they feel!
Business is so much better at attracting the public’s attention than healthcare is, but do we really trust big businesses to direct us towards heart-healthy food? Wouldn’t a specialist heart doctor have better insight into what we should be eating? Maybe so, but their focus is usually on medical or procedural treatments.
As you may know, Cardiologist’s Kitchen is a unique,15-month innovation sponsored by The Health Foundation and supported by the NHS. We’re based at Royal United Hospital, Bath, where I have worked as a nurse for the last 12 years. I used to work as Sister in the Cath Lab.
Ali is one of the Interventional Consultant Cardiologists at RUH and Cardiologist’s Kitchen is his (genius) idea to do himself and the other Interventionalists out of a job. They like to modestly call themselves ‘heart plumbers’ – they just casually unblock patients’ coronary arteries and routinely save lives!
Sometimes emergencies are dealt with by slick and smooth teamwork, all coordinated so seamlessly and serenely that the patient may fail to register the urgency and impact of what is happening to them. A heart attack can be fatal but also, can be treated with balloons and stents and so blood flow to the heart is restored.
I remember one gentleman who was whisked into the Cath Lab mid-heart attack and when he came out, his family were handing him back his cigarettes. He was joyously proclaiming, ‘I’ll be back in the pub by Friday!’ and I felt that the process was so streamlined and ‘matter of fact’ that we had missed an opportunity to help him review his risk factors at that crucial point.
Some risk factors are beyond our influence, like our family history, but there are some we can change. Ali, (our ‘Cooking Cardiologist’) is a ‘foodie’ and is passionate about talking to patients about diet and exercise, successfully motivating them to try his common-sense changes so that they don’t need to visit the Cath Lab again. Our innovation is addressing this ‘back-to-front’ health promotion by supporting GPs at their first point of contact with patients.
We at Cardiologist’s Kitchen are creating opportunities to help people before they become our patients. Our website is where we’re sharing trustworthy, evidence-based information, Dr Ali Khavandi’s common-sense advice and his recipe shares online.
Our criteria for recommending ‘ingredients for a healthy life’ to patients is simple; it must be incredibly delicious and with valid research to show it can improve heart health. We’re keen not to prescribe food instead of medications or procedures. Food is to be enjoyed after all. We are empowering our patients with the tools to be experts themselves.
We share clear information, demystifying all the confusing headlines and we’re supporting people in our area to try new things which promote a healthy blood pressure. This has been achieved through many exciting and rewarding collaborations. There is so much positivity around what we do.
We’re all about heart health but people see many more wellbeing improvements and say they feel so much better. The CardioKit Team’s ‘raison d’etre’ is the impact we see when we meet those patients’.
Read a shortened version of this article published on ‘Humans of the NHS’ in two parts in September 2017, during Blood Pressure Awareness week.