Preparing for your appointment

By Mayo Clinic Staff

You're likely to start by seeing your family doctor. After your initial appointment, your doctor may refer you to a doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of heart conditions (cardiologist).

Here's some information to help you prepare for your appointment and know what to expect from your doctor.

What you can do

  • Write down any symptoms you're experiencing, and for how long.
  • Make a list of your key medical information, including other recent health problems you've had and the names of any prescription and over-the-counter medications you're taking.
  • Find a family member or friend who can come with you to the appointment, if possible. Someone who accompanies you can help remember what the doctor says.
  • Write down the questions you want to be sure to ask your doctor.

Questions to ask your doctor at your initial appointment include:

  • What are the possible causes for my signs or symptoms?
  • What tests do I need? Do these tests require any special preparation?
  • Should I see a specialist?
  • Should I follow any restrictions while I wait for my next appointment?
  • What emergency signs and symptoms should prompt a call to local emergency services or 911?

Questions to ask if you are referred to a cardiologist include:

  • What is my diagnosis?
  • What is the underlying cause of my condition?
  • What is my risk of long-term complications from this condition?
  • What treatment do you recommend?
  • If you're recommending medications, what are the possible side effects?
  • If you're recommending surgery, what procedure is most likely to be successful in my case? Why?
  • What diet and lifestyle changes should I make? How will these changes help me?
  • What activity restrictions do I need to follow, if any?
  • How frequently will you see me for follow-up visits?
  • I have these other health problems. How can I best manage these conditions together?

In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask additional questions during your appointment.

What to expect from your doctor

A doctor or cardiologist who sees you for heart-related signs and symptoms may ask:

  • What are your symptoms?
  • When did you first begin experiencing symptoms?
  • Have your symptoms gotten worse over time?
  • Do your symptoms include chest pain?
  • Do your symptoms include rapid, fluttering or pounding heartbeats?
  • Do your symptoms include dizziness? Have you ever fainted?
  • Have you had difficulty breathing?
  • Does exercise or physical exertion make your symptoms worse?
  • Does lying down make your symptoms worse?
  • Are you being treated or have you recently been treated for any other health conditions, such as high blood pressure?
  • Have you ever coughed up blood?
  • Are you aware of ever having rheumatic fever?
  • Are you aware of any history of heart problems in your family?
  • Do you or did you smoke? How much?
  • Do you use alcohol or caffeine? How much?

What you can do in the meantime

While you wait for your appointment, check with your family members to find out if any close relatives have been diagnosed with heart disease. The symptoms of left ventricular hypertrophy are similar to a number of other heart conditions, including some that tend to run in families. Knowing as much as possible about your family's health history will help your doctor determine next steps for your diagnosis and treatment.

If exercise makes your symptoms worse, avoid strenuous activity until you've been seen by your doctor.

Jul. 18, 2012