If you think you may have atherosclerosis or are worried about having atherosclerosis because of a strong family history of heart disease, make an appointment with your doctor to have your cholesterol level checked.
Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment and know what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
- Be aware of any pre-appointment restrictions. When you make the appointment, be sure to ask if there's anything you need to do in advance, such as restrict your diet. Many blood tests, including cholesterol and triglycerides, require that you fast beforehand.
- Write down any symptoms you're experiencing. Atherosclerosis seldom has symptoms, but it is a risk factor for heart disease. Knowing you have symptoms such as chest pains or shortness of breath can help your doctor decide how aggressively to treat your atherosclerosis.
- Write down key personal information, including a family history of high cholesterol, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure or diabetes, and any major stresses or recent life changes.
- Make a list of all medications, vitamins or supplements you're taking.
- Take a family member or friend along, if possible. Someone who accompanies you may remember something that you missed or forgot.
- Be prepared to discuss your diet and exercise habits. If you don't already eat a healthy diet or exercise, you can talk to your doctor about challenges you might face in getting started.
- Write down questions to ask your doctor.
Preparing a list of questions will help you make the most of your time with your doctor. For atherosclerosis, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
- What tests will I need?
- What's the best treatment?
- What foods should I eat or avoid?
- What's an appropriate level of physical activity?
- How often do I need a cholesterol test?
- What are the alternatives to the primary approach you're suggesting?
- I have other health conditions. How can I best manage them together?
- Are there restrictions I need to follow?
- Should I see a specialist?
- Is there a generic alternative to the medicine you're prescribing?
- Are there brochures or other printed material that I can take with me? What websites do you recommend?
Don't hesitate to ask any other questions you have.
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions, including:
- Do you have a family history of high cholesterol, high blood pressure or heart disease?
- What are your diet and exercise habits like?
- Do you or did you smoke or use tobacco in any form?
- Have you had a cholesterol test? If so, when was your last test? What were your cholesterol levels?
- Do you have discomfort in your chest or pain in your legs with walking or at rest?
- Have you had a stroke or unexplained numbness, tingling or weakness of one side of your body or difficulty speaking?
What you can do in the meantime
It's never too early to make healthy lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking, eating healthy foods and becoming more physically active. These are primary lines of defense against atherosclerosis and its complications, including heart attack and stroke.
May 30, 2014
- What is atherosclerosis? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/Atherosclerosis/Atherosclerosis_All.html. Accessed Oct. 2, 2013.
- Atherosclerosis. American Heart Association. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/Cholesterol/WhyCholesterolMatters/Atherosclerosis_UCM_305564_Article.jsp. Accessed Oct. 2, 2013.
- Zhao X. Pathogenesis of atherosclerosis. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Oct. 2, 2013.
- Kalanuria AA, et al. The prevention and regression of atherosclerosis plaques: Emerging treatments. Vascular Health and Risk Management. 2012;8:549.
- Smith SC, et al. American Heart Association/American College of Cardiology Foundation Secondary prevention and risk reduction therapy for patients with coronary and other atherosclerotic vascular disease: 2011 update. Circulation. 2011;124:2458.
- The seventh report of the Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/guidelines/hypertension/jnc7full.htm. Accessed Oct. 3, 2013.
- Natural product effectiveness checker: High cholesterol. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. http://www.naturaldatabase.com. Accessed Oct. 3, 2013.
- Natural product effectiveness checker: Atherosclerosis. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. http://www.naturaldatabase.com. Accessed Oct. 3, 2013.
- Natural product effectiveness checker: Hypertension. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. http://www.naturaldatabase.com. Accessed Oct. 3, 2013.
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