Some types of heart disease will be discovered without an appointment — for example, if a child is born with a serious heart defect, it will be detected soon after birth. In other cases, your heart disease may be diagnosed in an emergency situation, such as a heart attack.
If you think you have heart disease or are worried about your heart disease risk because of your family history, see your family doctor. You may be referred to a heart specialist (cardiologist).
Here's some information to help you prepare for your appointment.
What you can do
- Be aware of pre-appointment restrictions. When you make the appointment, ask if there's anything you need to do in advance, such as restrict your diet. You may need to fast before a cholesterol test, for example.
- Write down symptoms you're experiencing, including any that seem unrelated to heart disease.
- Write down key personal information — including a family history of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure or diabetes — and major stresses or recent life changes.
- Make a list of medications, vitamins or supplements you're taking.
- Take someone along, if possible. Someone who accompanies you can help you remember information you're given.
- Be prepared to discuss your diet and your smoking and exercise habits. If you don't already follow a diet or exercise routine, talk to your doctor about getting started.
- Write down questions to ask your doctor.
For heart disease, 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 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 for heart disease? For example, how often do I need a cholesterol test?
- What are alternatives to the primary approach you're suggesting?
- I have other health conditions. How do I manage them together?
- Are there restrictions that 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 materials that I can have? What websites do you recommend?
Don't hesitate to ask other questions.
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor is likely to ask you questions, such as:
- When did your symptoms begin?
- 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 you have a family history of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure or other serious illness?
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 heart disease and its complications.
Jan. 16, 2013
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