Introduction: Poor nutrition increases hospitalization risk in patients with heart failure (HF). Patients with HF may eat a different, more restrictive, diet than family members placing them at higher risk of eating a lower quality diet. However, there is lack of evidence about differences in diet quality between patients with HF and their family caregivers. The purpose of this study was to compare diet quality among patients with HF and caregivers.
Methods: Outpatients with HF and their primary family caregivers participated in baseline assessment of a longitudinal study that included completing a 90-day VioCare-Food Frequency Questionnaire (Vio-FFQ) from which Health Eating Index-2010 (HEI) diet quality scores were calculated. Higher total HEI score (range 0-100) indicates better diet quality. Total HEI score is comprised 12 dietary components with individual component scores ranging between 5 to 20. Paired t-tests were used to compare HEI scores within two members of a dyad.
Results: Of the 40 patients (mean age 61.8 years, 60% male) and 40 caregivers (mean age 57.6 years, 80% female), only one patient and no caregivers had a high diet quality score (total HEI greater than 80). There was no difference in total HEI scores between patients and their family caregivers (58.5 vs. 59.4, p=.58). There was also no difference in scores for the 12 components of the HEI between patients and their caregivers. Compared to the national average HEI scores derived from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, both patients and caregivers had lower score on 6 components (i.e., total fruit, greens and beans, total protein foods, seafood and plant proteins, fatty acids, empty calories. In addition, scores on whole fruit and dairy for patients were below the national average. Interestingly, scores for the sodium component were similar between patients and caregivers (4.1 vs. 3.4, p =.24).
Conclusions: We found that HF patients’ and their family caregivers’ diets were of similarly poor quality. These findings suggest that improving diet quality is of equal importance for patients with HF and their family caregivers. Thus, nutrition intervention is needed for the family as a unit.