Whether you first see your family doctor or get emergency care, you'll likely be referred to a heart specialist (cardiologist) for one or more appointments for a complete diagnostic assessment.
If possible, take along a family member or friend who can give some moral support and help you keep track of new information. Because there may be a lot of ground to cover, it will be helpful to prepare as much as possible.
What you can do
Make a list ahead of time that you can share with your doctor. Your list should include:
- Symptoms you've experienced, including any that may seem unrelated to your heart
- Key personal information, including any major stresses or recent life changes
- Medications, including vitamins or supplements
- Questions to ask your doctor
List your questions from most important to least important in case time runs out. Basic questions to ask your doctor include:
- What is likely causing my slow heart rate?
- What kinds of tests do I need?
- What's the best treatment?
- What kind of risks does my heart condition create?
- How will we monitor my heart?
- How often will I need follow-up appointments?
- How will other conditions I have or medications I take affect my heart problem?
- Do I need to restrict my activities?
- Are there any brochures or other printed material that I can take home with me? What websites do you recommend visiting?
In addition to the questions you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask additional questions that may come up during your appointment.
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions. Being ready to answer them may reserve time to go over any points you want to spend more time on. Your doctor may ask:
May. 26, 2011
- When did you first begin experiencing symptoms?
- Have you experienced fainting spells in the past?
- Does anything, such as exercise, seem to worsen symptoms?
- Do you smoke?
- Are you being treated for heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or other conditions that may affect your circulatory system?
- What medications do you take for these conditions, and do you take them as prescribed?
- Arrhythmia. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/arr/arr_all.html. Accessed Feb. 12, 2011.
- Ganz LI. Sinus bradycardia. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed Feb. 12, 2011.
- Vijayaraman P, et al. Bradyarrhythmias and pacemakers. In: Fuster V, et al. Hurst's The Heart. 12th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw Hill Companies; 2008. http://www.accessmedicine.com/content.aspx?aID=3051085. Accessed Feb. 11, 2011.
- Tomaselli GF. The bradyarrhythmias. In: Fauci AS, et al. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. 17th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw Hill Companies; 2008. http://www.accessmedicine.com/content.aspx?aID=2874424. Accessed Feb. 11, 2011.
- Bradycardia. American Heart Association. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/Arrhythmia/TypesofArrhythmias/Bradycardia_UCM_302016_Article.jsp. Accessed Feb. 15, 2011.