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Two Studies at New York Hospital Queens Cardiac Health Center Being Presented at American Heart Association National Conference

Cynthia Bacon (718) 670-2515

Studies Demonstrate Value of Center’s Programs in Helping Older Heart Disease Patients, and Individuals Seeking to Lose Weight and Reduce their Heart Disease Risks

Flushing, New York, March 3, 2010– Two research studies conducted by the New York Hospital Queens Cardiac Health Center that are being presented at a national American Heart Association (AHA) conference in San Francisco this week demonstrate the value of the Center’s cardiac rehabilitation and weight management programs in promoting heart health.

“These two studies validate our approach to helping patients with heart disease and heart disease risk factors,” said John Nicholson, M.D., director of the Center.  “The first study shows that involving heart disease patients in a formal exercise program definitely improves their functional capability, and that elderly patients benefit as much or more than younger patients, which can translate into improved quality of life.”

The second study, which compared the Center’s “Weigh to Go” weight management program to more traditional weight reduction programs, and found that individuals enrolled in “Weigh to Go” with a more palatable diet and meal plan, had a more significant decrease in weight and were more likely to complete the full program.

“Given that obesity is a major health epidemic in the U. S.,” Dr. Nicholson said, “and is a significant risk factor for the development of heart disease, finding better ways to help individuals reduce their weight and keep it down is extremely important.”

Both studies, which were conducted by a team led by NYHQ internal medicine specialist Bharathi Reddy, M. D., are being presented in poster sessions this week at a joint meeting of the AHA’s 50th Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology Prevention Conference and the association’s Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism Conference, being held in San Francisco.

Dr. Reddy works with patients at the Cardiac Health Center, developing care plans, monitoring their status, and teaching classes, and also delivers lectures on heart disease-related topics in the community.    Other members of the study teams included
Dr. Nicholson and Center staff members Donna Cheslik Candy, R.N., M.S.N., administrative director; Barbara Pistone, R.D., nutrition program coordinator; Kiseok Lee, M.S., exercise physiologist, and Nancy Rullo, M.S., M.A., senior exercise physiologist.

Exercise Training for Weight Management
The study which measured the impact of exercise training as part of cardiac rehabilitation focused on patients over age 65, who had previously not been included in many other studies on this subject.   Some 317 patients who were involved in the study were divided into two groups, age 55 and age 70 and older, and were given stress tests before and after being involved in exercise training as part of cardiac rehabilitation.  The results confirmed that the exercise training had benefits for individuals in both the younger and older groups, but there was more significant improvement in the elderly patients than in the younger ones. 

“Given that functional capacity improvements can make a significant difference in helping patients have a more productive and satisfying lifestyle,” said Dr. Nicholson, “this study reinforces our belief that cardiac rehabilitation which includes exercise training is very important for all heart patients, and especially for those who are elderly.”

Diet Planning for Weight Management 
The second Cardiac Health Center study focused on the effectiveness of different types of diets included in weight management programs in helping individuals to lose weight and stay with the program.  Patients in the Center’s weight management program, which includes ongoing educational classes and integrated exercise components, followed a traditional type of diet plan prior to 2006, when the  “Weigh to Go” program was introduced with a new diet plan developed by Center dietitians.

“We looked at all available diet plans, including those which were very restrictive and difficult for patients to use, and then we set out to create a plan based on real foods and people’s real lives,” said Barbara Pistone, R. D., nutrition program coordinator.

Instead of patients being given the typical generic information about types of foods, portion sizes, etc., Center dietitians went to grocery stores in the Flushing, N.Y., area, looked at prepared and processed foods, available types and brands of foods, and developed diet plans that were easier for patients to actually use in their daily lives.  “We’d say for this brand of bread, one slice is a serving, but for that one, you can have two slices, and we’d name the breads, so it was easy for the patients,” she noted.

The Weigh to Go Plan, which was also lower in carbohydrates than most traditional plans, worked well for patients, as Dr. Reddy’s study confirmed.  Patients using the Weigh to Go diet had a more significant weight loss (an average of 10.6 pounds) than the patients on traditional diets  (average loss of 7.3 pounds), and were more likely to complete the entire weight management program (83% completed, compared to 60% who were in the program using the traditional diet plan).


New York Hospital Queens is a member of the New York-Presbyterian Healthcare System and an affiliate of the Weill Medical College of Cornell University.


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