BOSTON – Reinterpreting guidelines to offer more specific diet options and educating patients on lifestyle choices may reduce changeable risk factors that contribute to diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

“For every single patient, lifestyle modifications are about diet and exercise,” Suzanne Steinbaum, DO, told Clinical Advisor at the American Academy of Physician Assistant 2014 IMPACT meeting.

Explaining diet recommendations

Steinbaum suggested alternatives to the government’s MyPlate nutritional guide, stating that specific guidelines would be more beneficial to patients.

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“If we’re going to give a general recommendation, and that general recommendation is a food plate or a pyramid, then that recommendation should be more exact guidelines including nuts, legumes, beans, whole grains, cereal fibers, and EVOO,” said Steinbaum. “When you get specific, it helps [patients] make choices in a much easier way.”

Incorporating elements of the Mediterranean diet, like higher intakes of whole-grains (including cereal fiber), omega 3 fatty acids found in nuts and extra virgin olive oil, fruits and vegetables has made a difference in reducing pre-metabolic syndrome in high-risk patients.

Importance of activity

Patients who are unfit need to start slowly, incorporating low-impact lifestyle changes into their physical activity. “Getting up and doing something, even walking, is a huge part of reducing heart disease,” suggested Steinbaum.

Advising patients to set a daily goal of walking 10,000 steps is a good way of increasing physical activity. “It’s not about running a marathon or a whole life overhaul, it’s about incorporating better choices into a patient’s life.”

Holistic approach to health

Health-care practitioners can education patients on making better diet and exercise choices, but the onus is on the patient to follow recommendations, and learn that choices impact overall health.

“Even if [patients] start their day off with a muffin, it doesn’t mean that the rest of the day they can’t make better choices,” explained Steinbaum. “It’s a really holistic way to approach health.”

“One of the most important things that we should focus on is to really let patients be aware of what their choices mean,” said Steinbaum. “What they do every single day, from morning to evening, makes a difference.”


  1. Steinbaum S.Healthy Body, Healthy Heart- Grains’ Role in Whole Body Health.” Presented at: AAPA 2014 Meeting. Boston; May 23-28.