Tips for Talking To Your Doctor About Heart Disease

Why should I talk to my health care provider about heart disease?

Many women and even their doctors think of heart disease is a man’s problem, but heart disease is the #1 killer of women. It is important for every woman, together with her health care provider(s), to address her risk for heart disease. This begins with a frank conversation about your risk level and steps you should be taking to prevent future heart problems.

If you are ever concerned about symptoms that you think might be related to your heart, see your provider right away never wait! If you experience the symptoms of a heart attack, call 9-1-1.

What is the best way to talk to my health care provider about heart disease?

All women need to take an active role in their health care. Forming a good partnership with your health care provider is a great place to start. Good partnerships depend on good communication. You will get more out of each visit with your provider, and help your provider to give you the best possible care, if you learn how to talk about any symptoms you might be having, as well as your lifestyle. Here are some tips to help you better communicate with your provider.

  • Be prepared. Prepare some key items in advance of your appointment, including: a list of your concerns and questions; a diary of your symptoms (if you have any), and a list of any medications that you are taking, including over-the-counter drugs. You can even bring all of your medications with you. Also make a note of any past illnesses, surgeries, and treatments, including mental health treatment.
  • Tell your story. Your doctor will ask you about your lifestyle and habits, such as diet, exercise, smoking, and other issues related to heart health—be honest. Be sure to mention if you have a history of high blood pressure or cholesterol, or if anyone in your family has had a heart attack, stroke, or heart disease, and how old they were when it was diagnosed. If you are having symptoms, tell your provider when they began, how often they occur, and whether they are getting better, worse, or staying the same.
  • Take notes. This will help you to remember what your doctor tells you; if you’re unsure of the meaning or spelling of some words, ask your doctor to explain or to write them down so you can look them up later. You can also use your note pad to write down questions as you think of them.
  • Ask questions. Your doctor may order tests to assess your risk or symptoms, and then recommend certain lifestyle changes or specific treatments. Make sure that you fully understand any tests ordered or treatments prescribed. Keep in mind that there are no “stupid” questions every question that you might have is important when it comes to your heart health.
  • Speak up for yourself. If you feel that your doctor has not fully answered your questions or addressed your symptoms, be sure to say so. Also tell your doctor if a prescribed treatment is not working for you or you are having side effects. Your healthcare provider may prescribe a different treatment or a different dose of the same medication that could work better for you.

What types of questions might I ask about my heart health?

Here are some helpful questions that you can ask your health care provider about heart health:

What are my personal risk factors for heart disease?

  • What effect does menopause have on my heart disease risk or my ability to detect symptoms?
  • What is a healthy weight and physical activity level for me?
  • Are my blood pressure and cholesterol levels where should they be?
  • Am I at risk for diabetes?
  • What else can I do to lower my risk of heart disease?

Do I need to undergo any diagnostic tests or procedures to determine my risk for heart disease?

  • What information can I expect to get from these tests or procedures?
  • Are there any risks involved in these diagnostic tests or procedures?
  • Is there any special preparation (such as fasting) before having the diagnostic test or procedure?
  • Are there any risks to NOT having the test or procedure?

If medication is prescribed: why was it prescribed? How much and how often do I take it?

  • What are the common side effects associated with this medication?
  • Do I need to avoid any other medications, food or activities while taking this?
  • Are there generic alternatives and are they right for me?

When do I need to follow-up with you to make sure the medications and/or lifestyle changes are working?

Based on what I have told you, do you believe that my symptoms are caused by heart disease? If so, what are the long-term repercussions?

Where else can I go for more information about heart disease?

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