If you think you may have cardiomyopathy or are worried about your risk because of a family history, make an appointment with your primary care doctor. He or she may refer you to a heart specialist (cardiologist).
Because appointments can be brief, and because there's often a lot of ground to cover, it's a good idea to be prepared for your appointment. Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment and what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
- Be aware of any pre-appointment restrictions. At the time you make the appointment, be sure to ask if there's anything you need to do in advance, such as restrict your diet.
- Write down any symptoms you're experiencing, including any that may seem unrelated to cardiomyopathy.
- Write down key personal information, including a family history of cardiomyopathy, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure or diabetes and any major stresses or recent life changes.
- Make a list of all medications, as well as any vitamins or supplements, that you're taking.
- Take a family member or friend along, if possible. Sometimes it can be difficult to remember all of the information provided to you during an appointment. 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 follow a diet or exercise routine, be ready to talk to your doctor about any challenges you might face in getting started.
- Write down questions to ask your doctor.
Your time with your doctor is limited, so preparing a list of questions will help you make the most of your time together. List your questions from most important to least important in case time runs out. For cardiomyopathy, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
- What's the most likely cause of my symptoms?
- What are other possible causes?
- What kinds of tests do I need? Do these tests require any special preparation?
- What treatment options are available, and which do you recommend for me?
- What foods should I eat or avoid?
- Is it OK for me to exercise? What level of activity is OK?
- How often should I be screened?
- Should I tell my family members to be screened for cardiomyopathy?
- I have other health conditions. How can I best manage these conditions together?
- Is there a generic alternative to the medicine you're prescribing me?
- 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 that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask additional questions that occur to you 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:
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- When did you first begin experiencing symptoms?
- Do you have symptoms all the time, or do they come and go?
- How severe are your symptoms?
- What, if anything, seems to improve your symptoms?
- What, if anything, appears to worsen your symptoms?
- Do any of your blood relatives have cardiomyopathy or other types of heart disease?
- Longo DL, et al. Harrison's Online. 18th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2012. http://www.accessmedicine.com/resourceTOC.aspx?resourceID=4. Accessed July 1, 2013.
- Cardiomyopathy. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/cm/printall-index.html. Accessed July 1, 2013.
- Shammas NW, et al. Pericarditis, myocarditis, and other cardiomyopathies. Primary Care Clinics in Office Practice. 2013;40:213.
- Yancy CW, et al. 2013 ACCF/AHA Guideline for the Management of Heart Failure: A Report of the American College of Cardiology Foundation/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines. Circulation. In Press. Accessed July 1, 2013.
- Gersh BJ, et al. 2011 ACCF/AHA Guideline for the Diagnosis and Treatment of Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy. Journal of the American College of Cardiology. 2011:58:e212.
- Podrid PJ, et al. Secondary and primary prevention of sudden cardiac death in heart failure and cardiomyopathies. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed July 1, 2013.
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