If you think you may have a heart arrhythmia, make an appointment with your family doctor. If a heart arrhythmia is found early, your treatment may be easier and more effective. Eventually, however, you may be referred to a heart specialist (cardiologist).
If your heart arrhythmia persists for more than a few minutes or is accompanied by fainting, shortness of breath or chest pain, call 911 or your local emergency number or have someone drive you to the nearest emergency room.
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. You may need to do this if your doctor orders any blood tests.
- Write down any symptoms you're experiencing, including any that may seem unrelated to heart arrhythmia.
- 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 remember all the information provided to you during an appointment. Someone who accompanies you may remember something that you missed or forgot.
- 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 heart arrhythmias, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
- What's the most likely cause of my symptoms?
- Are there other possible causes for my symptoms?
- What kinds of tests will I need? Do I need to do anything to prepare for these tests?
- What's the best treatment?
- Are there any foods or drinks that you recommend I avoid? Is there anything you suggest that I add to my diet?
- What's an appropriate level of physical activity?
- How often should I be screened for heart disease or other complications of an arrhythmia?
- I have other health conditions. How can I best manage these conditions together?
- 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:
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- When did you first begin experiencing symptoms?
- Have your symptoms been continuous, or do they come and go?
- How severe are your symptoms?
- Does anything seem to improve your symptoms?
- What, if anything, appears to worsen your symptoms?
- Arrhythmias. The Merck Manuals: The Merck Manual for Healthcare Professionals. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/cardiovascular_disorders/arrhythmias_and_conduction_disorders/overview_of_arrhythmias.html. Accessed Jan. 29. 2013.
- What is an arrhythmia? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/arr/. Accessed Jan. 29, 2013.
- Substances & heart rhythm disorders. Heart Rhythm Society. http://www.hrsonline.org/Patient-Resources/Substances-Heart-Rhythm-Disorders#axzz2JbtJY5qH. Accessed Jan. 31, 2013.
- Stone CK, et al. Current Diagnosis & Treatment Emergency Medicine. 7th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2011. http://www.accessmedicine.com/content.aspx?aID=55753892. Accessed January 28, 2013.
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- Drugs with possible risk of Torsades de Pointes. http://www.azcert.org/medical-pros/drug-lists/list-02.cfm. Accessed Jan. 30, 2013.
- Understand your risk for arrhythmia. American Heart Association. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/Arrhythmia/UnderstandYourRiskforArrhythmia/Understand-Your-Risk-for-Arrhythmia_UCM_002024_Article.jsp. Accessed Jan. 30, 2013.
- Antithrombotic therapy supplement. Bloomington, Minn.: Institute for Clinical Systems Improvement.https://www.icsi.org/_asset/bjr47w/Antithromb-Interactive0512.pdf. Accessed Jan. 29, 2013.
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- Rix TA, et al. Omega-3 fatty acids and cardiac arrhythmias. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care. In press. Accessed Jan. 29, 2013.
- U.S. News best hospitals: Cardiology & heart surgery. U.S. News and World Report. http://health.usnews.com/best-hospitals/rankings/cardiology-and-heart-surgery. Accessed Feb. 1, 2013.
- Hands-only CPR fact sheet. American Heart Association. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/CPRAndECC/HandsOnlyCPR/LearnMore/Learn-More_UCM_440810_FAQ.jsp. Accessed Feb. 10, 2013.