If you think you may have dilated cardiomyopathy, or are worried about your risk because of a family history, make an appointment with your family doctor. If dilated cardiomyopathy is found early, your treatment may be easier and more effective. Eventually, however, you may be referred 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 know 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 dilated cardiomyopathy.
- Write down key personal information, including a family history of 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 that you're taking.
- Take a family member or friend along, if possible. Sometimes it can be difficult to soak up all 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 dilated cardiomyopathy, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
- What is likely causing my symptoms or condition?
- What are other possible causes for my symptoms or condition?
- What kinds of 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 should I be screened?
- Should I tell my family members to be screened for dilated cardiomyopathy?
- What are the alternatives to the primary approach that you're suggesting?
- I have other health conditions. How can I best manage them together?
- Are there any restrictions that I need to follow?
- Should I see a specialist?
- Is there a generic alternative to the medicine you're prescribing?
- Are there any brochures or other printed material that I can take home with me? What websites do you recommend visiting?
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:
Sep. 16, 2011
- When did you first begin experiencing symptoms?
- Have your symptoms been continuous or occasional?
- 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 dilated cardiomyopathy or other types of heart disease?
- Jeffries JL, et al. Dilated cardiomyopathy. The Lancet. 2010;375:752.
- Dilated cardiomyopathy. American Heart Association. http://www.heart.org/idc/groups/heart-public/@wcm/@hcm/documents/downloadable/ucm_312224.pdf. Accessed July 3, 2011.
- Cardiomyopathy. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/cm/cm_all.html. Accessed July 3, 2011.
- Mestroni L, et al. Dilated cardiomyopathies. In: Fuster V, et al. Hurst's The Heart. 13th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2011. http://www.accessmedicine.com/content.aspx?aID=7811432. Accessed July 3, 2011.
- Bashore TM, et al. Heart disease. In McPhee SJ, et al. Current Medical Diagnosis & Treatment 2011. 50th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2011. http://www.accessmedicine.com/content.aspx?aID=3671. Accessed July 3, 2011.
- Hunt SA, et al. 2009 Focused update incorporated into the ACC/AHA 2005 guidelines for the diagnosis and management of heart failure in adults: A report of the American College of Cardiology Foundation/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines. Journal of the American College of Cardiology. 2009;53:e1.
- Grogan M (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. July 31, 2011.