Date Approved


Degree Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department or School

Health Sciences

Committee Member

George Liepa, PhD, Chair

Committee Member

Kathy Rhodes, PhD, RD


Weight management is integral to cardiovascular risk reduction. However, minimal weight loss is achieved during participation in many cardiac rehabilitation (CR) programs. The objective of the present study was to establish if brief interventions by a registered dietitian (RD) during cardiac rehabilitation sessions improved the health status of patients with cardiovascular disease. An RD provided individualized nutrition counseling, answered nutrition questions, and reviewed weekly progress in a CR program for a four-month period. At baseline and upon completion of 19 CR sessions, nutrition knowledge was assessed using a 38-question test, and body weight was measured. Upon completing CR, patients rated the degree at which they were making healthier food choices and how much they liked having an RD assessable during CR. After four months, the exercise physiologists (EPs) rated the value of having an RD in CR. Outcomes were collected on every patient who completed CR during this period, and values were compared to outcomes of patients who completed CR during the same timeframe one year earlier. Both groups received instruction regarding the traditional CR exercise program and four 45-minute weekly group nutrition education sessions. Forty-nine patients (36 males) completed CR with the RD present. Mean nutrition knowledge test scores improved from 59 ±1 4% to 72 ± 14%, (p = < .001). After completing CR, patients reported making healthier food choices 8.1 ± 1.2 out of 10 on a Likert scale. Additionally, patients related the helpfulness of having an RD available to answer their nutrition questions 8.7 ± 4.8 out of 10. The group of patients who had an RD present during CR had a mean weight loss of 1.48 ± 7.1 lbs (range -18.8 to 16.4 lbs) when compared to the group who did not have access to an RD. Ten patients were referred for individual nutrition counseling with an outpatient RD. Exercise physiologists rated the value of having an RD as part of the health care team a 9.8 out of 10. There was a trend towards greater weight loss in the group of patients who had access to an RD in CR. iv