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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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May 24, 2007

True Confessions of a Cardiac Nurse (Guess Who’s Getting in the Way of Health?)

By Mark Sisson

First, let me introduce myself. My name is Kendra James and I have been a cardiac critical care nurse for many years. I also write Diabetes Notes and A Hearty Life for b5media. I have so much to say about health care, nutrition and being heart-healthy. Mark asked me to share some of the thoughts that I ponder frequently and that quite frankly, just get under my skin. Buckle up, ‘cause here we go!

Do you want to know what gets me all fired up?

Repeat offenders.

No, I don’t mean the kind that are convicted and thrown in jail (I have a pretty strong dislike for them also though). I am referring to the patients that frequent the hospital so much, I know their likes, dislikes and family members by first names. I am not speaking of the very sick, terminally ill, or justifiably admitted patients, but rather, my cardiac patients that just don’t get it. Well, to be totally honest, they choose not to get it! Ugh…

How many times in one month can you do dietary teaching for the same person? You go through the whole spiel. Print it out on paper, review it with their family members, address any questions they might have and do this all with a smile on your face just to repeat the whole process 12 days later. Does anyone else out there feel my pain? Low fat, low cholesterol, restricted salt diet equals success for the cardiac patient. Fast food 5 times a week followed by 14 cups of coffee a day, and no-holds-barred on the salt shaker equals a visit with this very irritated nurse yet once again.

I care about my patients, I mean truly care about their health and well being. I want to know I provided a service to them and gave them the tools they need to maintain their health outside the hospital. When I have a MI, myocardial infarction, or CHF, congestive heart failure, patient that is signing himself or herself out 6 times a day to go and smoke, I just don’t get that warm ‘n fuzzy. Would you?

I know that the majority of health care professionals, including doctors, feel the same way. Believe me, it is a common topic among the staff at any hospital. What could I do to get my point across in a more effective way for these “repeat offenders”?

I guess I could adapt the attitude that some of my fellow nurses and physicians have, and just not give a hoot. I could say, “I’m getting paid one way or another,” but that just isn’t me. I am one of the nurses with empathy and compassion who wants to make a difference. You thought there were none of us left, huh?

So, to answer my own question, I guess that is why I got into health care blogging. I want to provide education and resources to people who actually want it; people who are listening to what I have to say, even if not always agreeing. Being a diabetic and cardiac critical nurse, I feel I have something to offer patients and health care providers. My sites Diabetes Notes and A Hearty Life do just that. Check them out if you want to hear what else this very opinionated and caring nurse has to say on a daily basis.

Thanks for stopping by to give us the inside track, Kendra. It’s all too easy to place the entirety of the blame for our unhealthy problems squarely on the shoulders of Big Pharma, HMOs, or – in our view – unenlightened doctors and nurses. This is a prescient reminder that good health requires that everyone take responsibility – most importantly, you.

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12 Comments on "True Confessions of a Cardiac Nurse (Guess Who’s Getting in the Way of Health?)"


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Breast Cancer Message Boards
8 years 11 months ago

Hi i have seen your site its very informative & very help full for suffer from this my site is about Message and discussion board for breast cancer survivors, recently diagnosed, and supporters to voice their questions, advice, and stories.

j. miri
8 years 8 months ago

fact: there is no known link between cholesterol levels and cad.

Jim Scudder
6 years 11 months ago

I have Congestive Heart Failure and am eating fairly healthy, but thinking this Primal eating may be even better for me. I currently take 5 different medications 2X day. Any issues with eating primal and medication interaction that you know about?


[…] Not that success always happens. Believe me, I don’t always see rainbows and roses, just read my last post here at Mark’s blog. And I get just as frustrated as the next nurse with noncompliance and neglect, but I think we are […]

4 years 9 months ago

I am an 76 year old woman. It’s taken me 3 months to finally give up carbs and stop cheating but I’m thrilled to say that it’s finally happened. The exercise part is a problem because of pain in my hip and knee joints, so I’m just hoping for the best from diet. On good days, I take a long, very slow walk and do some push-ups on the kitchen counter. I’ve mostly eaten organically and taken fish oil since I first started reading about it, currently 2800 mg. a day.

4 years 9 months ago

Nice work! Please keep us posted on your progress.

Patricia Brief
Patricia Brief
4 years 8 months ago

I’m a cardiac nurse also and I have been thinking the exact same things, but I’m glad someone has come out and said exactly what I’ve been thinking. (repeat offenders) I also consider myself very empathetic to patient needs, but I do practice what I preach or try too. Thank you.

Don in Arkansas
Don in Arkansas
4 years 3 months ago

“Low fat, low cholesterol, restricted salt diet equals success for the cardiac patient. Fast food 5 times a week followed by 14 cups of coffee a day, and no-holds-barred on the salt shaker equals a visit with this very irritated nurse yet once again.”

While I totally agree with the second part of this quote, I pretty much totally disagree with the first part. I don’t think the science will back this up.

Any other opinions on this?

David Francis
4 years 26 days ago

I was thinking the same thing. The dietary advice is way off and contributes to the overall problem just as much as “non-compliant” patients and the conventional medical model.

2 years 10 months ago

Boy, I was thinking the exact same thing. Husband just out of the hospital with pneumonia induced CHF and the usual “advice” ensued from the staff. Carb, carb, carb. What rubbish.

tina kamins
tina kamins
3 years 9 months ago
As a Rehab RN, I care for many stroke and diabetic patients. I agree with the cardiac nurse as far as diet advice. The hospital serves “consistent carbohydrate” meals, meaning 60 grams three times a day!! To people whose blood sugar is already out of control, then we have to inject insulin, further worsening hyperinsulinism. In all my years, I have only come across one patient who asked to be on a low-carb diet to keep his blood sugar controlled. He had to fight tooth and nail with the dietician to get clearance. The medical establishment is truly pre-historic as… Read more »
2 years 3 months ago
I’m sure we agree about fried junk food being bad, and vegetables being good, but I have to disagree about cholesterol, red meat, fat etc. I used to eat moderately well but I didn’t worry about carbs, though I did favor whole grains most of the time. A few months ago, I started to take my relatively mild diabetes seriously. It’s difficult, but I try to limit carbs. Say, 1 slice of bread with a full meal. I’ve eaten more meat than ever before, including beef, although mostly chicken and turkey. I leave the poultry skins on. The weather is… Read more »