Article Date: 3/1/2012

Begin the Nutrition Conversation
nutrition

Begin the Nutrition Conversation

Three ideas can jump start your nutrition discussions with patients.

Kimberly K. Reed, O.D., F.A.A.O.

Through the past few years, I’ve lectured in places where living “green” and eating organic is the norm, and in places where healthy food preparation is just emerging. Although the setting changes dramatically, there is one common theme: Most optometrists recognize that nutrition plays a role in ocular health, but they just don’t know how to get started with nutrition counseling.

O.D.s want to know how to make the nutrition discussion profitable, or at least how to avoid losing revenues when the discussion extends the exam time. Yet many don’t feel adequately trained to competently discuss nutrition.

That’s where this column comes in. Each Nutrition column will examine one aspect of nutrition as it relates to optometric practice. If you have a specific question you’d like answered, feel free to ask me.

Get the ball rolling

To get the ball rolling, we’re going to talk about — well, getting the ball rolling. That is, how do you begin the conversation with a patient about nutrition?

While there isn’t any one specific method that will work with every patient, here are some ideas:

1. Display nutrition brochures or patient education materials in your waiting and reception areas. These items help patients make the connection between their overall wellness and their eye examination. Do you have journal or magazine articles related to eye health in your waiting area? If not, start by clipping articles you think are relevant, laminate them, and put them where patients can easily read them.

2. Take three opportunities during the comprehensive patient history to discuss your patient’s lifestyle as it relates to nutrition:

► During the medication history, ask about supplements and/or vitamins. Simply asking implies there is a connection with their eye examination, and often prompts patient questions: “Is that a good vitamin to take? Should I be taking something different?” This is an ideal opportunity to begin the dialogue.
► When you ask about caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco use, also ask, “What is your typical diet like?” Again, this is an opportunity to connect food intake with ocular health. So your response can be, “Many studies have proven a direct link between the types of food you eat and many ocular diseases, like macular degeneration, glaucoma, and cataracts. Increasing your intake of leafy greens, and reducing your intake of processed foods, can make a difference.”
► When you ask about work and hobbies, also ask about exercise habits. The answer will give you information about the patient’s overall wellness, and it may suggest options related to ocular vitamins and sports vision management.

3. Provide education during the ocular health exam. For example, educate those patients who have borderline meibomian gland disease/ocular surface disease about the benefits of omega-3s while you’re finishing the slit lamp exam. Teach the patient who has mild arteriolar narrowing how nutrition relates to hypertension when you examine them with a 90D fundus lens. BIO is a great time to relate what you see in the patient’s eyes to their ocular and systemic health.

You can seamlessly incorporate these practices without adding significant exam time. Making specific recommendations once you’ve established patient status will be the subject of future columns. OM

DR. REED IS AN ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR AT THE NOVA SOUTHEASTERN UNIVERSITY COLLEGE OF OPTOMETRY IN FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA., A MEMBER OF THE OCULAR NUTRITION SOCIETY AND AUTHOR OF NUMEROUS ARTICLES ON OCULAR NUTRITION, DISEASE, AND PHARMACOLOGY, SHE IS ALSO A FREQUENT CONTINUING EDUCATION LECTURER. TO COMMENT ON THIS COLUMN, E-MAIL DR. REED AT KIMREED@NOVA.EDU.


Optometric Management, Volume: 47 , Issue: March 2012, page(s): 65