Most people know that a healthy diet can reduce your risk of developing heart disease. But what if you’ve already been diagnosed? Can what you eat have a positive impact on your health or the amount you spend on health care?
The answer for many people is yes, according to research conducted this year by Project Angel Heart, a Colorado nonprofit that prepares and delivers medically tailored meals to people living with life-threatening illnesses, and the Center for Improving Value in Health Care (CIVHC). The study used medical claims data from more than 700 Project Angel Heart clients to compare their total monthly medical costs before, during, and after they received meal deliveries.
While receiving medically tailored meals, total monthly medical costs for people living with congestive heart failure decreased by 26 percent, an average cost savings of $735 per month per person. Similar cost savings were seen when comparing people with congestive heart failure who received meals to a control group made up of people who did not receive meals.
One organization taking note of these results and other data linking medically tailored meals and heart health is the Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Foundation. As part of its Healthy Hearts initiative, the foundation recently awarded Project Angel Heart with a $50,000 grant to fund deliveries of medically tailored meals for people living with cardiovascular disease.
The meals, which are prepared from scratch by a team of professional chefs and kitchen volunteers, are tasty. They’re also low in sodium and saturated fat, thanks to the watchful eye of Project Angel Heart’s registered dietitian, Meghan Perkins.
“There are lots of ways to boost flavor without adding salt,” said Perkins. “In the Project Angel Heart kitchen, we use ingredients like fresh or dried herbs, lemon juice, mustard, garlic, and onion to make sure our meals are flavorful and appetizing.”
Making sure the meals are delicious, as well as tailored to meet an individual’s specific health needs, is an important part of Project Angel Heart’s strategy.
“Medically tailored meals can have a significant, positive impact on the overall health of people living with a heart disease diagnosis,” said Perkins. “But only if the meal recipients are actually eating those meals. Our clients are often surprised to find that heart-healthy, low-sodium meals can taste quite good.”
Because the meals, which are delivered frozen, can be quickly and easily reheated in an oven or microwave, they’re ideal for individuals who can’t stand long enough to cook or who have difficulty getting to a grocery store.
Thanks in part to support from the Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Foundation, Project Angel Heart expects to deliver medically tailored meals to 1,050 Coloradans living with cardiovascular disease this year.
About Project Angel Heart
Project Angel Heart prepares and delivers high quality, nutritious meals, free of charge, to improve health and quality of life for people coping with heart disease, cancer, HIV/AIDS, and other life-threatening illnesses. This year, the organization will serve more than 3,000 Coloradans. For more information, visit www.projectangelheart.org.
About the Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Foundation
Through charitable grant making, the Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Foundation LLC, an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, promotes Anthem’s inherent commitment to enhance the health and well-being of individuals and families in communities that Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield serves. The Foundation focuses its funding on strategic initiatives that address and provide innovative solutions to health care challenges, as well as promoting the Healthy Generations Program, a multi-generational initiative that targets specific disease states and medical conditions. These include: prenatal care in the first trimester, low birth weight babies, cardiac morbidity rates, long-term activities that decrease obesity and increase physical activity, diabetes prevalence in adult populations, adult pneumococcal and influenza vaccinations, and smoking cessation. The Foundation also coordinates the company’s year-round Dollars for Dollars program which provides a 100 percent match of associates’ donations, as well as its Volunteer Time Off and Dollars for Doers community service programs. ®ANTHEM is a registered trademark of Anthem Insurance Companies, Inc. The Blue Cross and Blue Shield names and symbols are registered marks of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.