Learn more about SCL Health's Heart and Vascular Care
Making an appointment to visit a heart doctor can be unexpected, unwanted, and frightening for some. However, there are ways to overcome these feelings and get the most out of your appointment.
Just like most things in life, you will feel better if you walk into the room prepared. The National Institutes of Health recommends writing down a list of questions and prioritizing your concerns. It also suggests you bring a list of all the prescription drugs, over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements you take, including the dosages.
Everyone’s list will look different. However, the following list will get your thoughts going but is not meant to be exhaustive.
Question 1: What caused my heart problem? How severe is my condition?
Heart disease has many causes, including hardening of the arteries and congestive heart failure. It can be mild or severe. Your doctor might recommend additional testing to determine the extent of your condition.
Question 2: How does my family history affect my heart health?
There are reasons doctors ask about your family health history. For example, with heart health, genetics, and environment are essential. You cannot change genetics, but you can do something about lifestyle and the environment.
Several genes have been identified with the increased risk of poor heart health. In addition, some conditions affecting blood pressure and cholesterol levels can be genetic. Finally, a family history of heart disease may incline doctors to screen you more often.
Don't worry if you don't have your family history; it's okay! Provide any information that you do have. You can also use My Family Health Portrait, a tool from the Surgeon General, to start documenting your family health history for others in your family to use and contribute.
Question 3: How will my personal health history affect my diagnosis?
Your doctor must know if you have experienced symptoms of heart trouble, such as fatigue, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing when lying down, and rapid or irregular heartbeats. In addition, tell them about any prior or ongoing illnesses or diseases you have experienced. Be sure to share all the details: when, how long it lasted, and medications you took. Include any surgical procedures and provide all recent lab tests.
Question 4: Why are you recommending I take this test?
To be comprehensive, cardiologists sometimes order tests that may seem confusing. Remember they have vast experience and knowledge that goes into their decision-making. Still, you should feel empowered to discuss any concerns or questions you have about testing with your doctor.
Question 5: What are my treatment options? Why are you prescribing this medication?
Depending on the severity of your condition, your doctor will determine your treatment plan. Your plan might include lifestyle change, dietary changes, quitting smoking, limiting alcohol and medication.
When it comes to medication, ask your doctor, not the internet. Be open about any concerns to explain the benefits and potential side effects.
Question 6: How will this affect daily activities? What lifestyle changes can I make to feel better?
Few activities are harmful to your heart health. Heart disease is a condition where changes in lifestyle (i.e., diet, exercise, stress, sleep) can significantly affect the course of the situation. However, aerobic activities might be harmful if you have a life-threatening disease that has not been treated. Discuss your concerns with your doctor and what changes will positively impact your condition.
Question 7: What is my risk of having a cardiovascular problem in the future? What symptoms might indicate a worsening of my specific condition?
Your health and family history play a significant role and will be a determining factor in much of your care. Additionally, doctors use several risk calculators to establish your risk of developing heart disease. You can also visit the American Heart Association to use their risk calculator. It is not a tool to self-diagnose, nor is it perfect, but it can give you an excellent place to begin a meaningful conversation with your cardiologist.
Heart disease is an umbrella term that covers many conditions. Therefore, asking what your symptoms might look like is essential. You might think you already know, for example, chest pain before a heart attack. However, many women and some men never experience chest pain. Instead, they have shortness of breath, nausea, sweats, or pain in their neck and back. So be sure your doctor addresses all the warning signs specific to your condition.
According to a report published in the journal Circulation, half of all Americans have some form of heart disease. In addition, every 40 seconds, a person in the U.S. has a heart attack or stroke, making poor heart health a leading cause of death.
Understanding your risks and addressing any concerns are critical to preventative care and promoting heart health. We are here to support you and help care for your heart. So, give us a call today to schedule with a cardiologist and print out this list to ensure you get the most out of your appointment.