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How to Talk with Your Cardiologist about Heart Disease Symptoms
No matter your age, whether you’re a man or a woman, it’s important to talk to your doctor about the signs and symptoms of heart disease. A little preparation before your visit will help you ask questions and have a more informed conversation.
Before your appointment, make a list of your symptoms, including what they feel like and when they occur. Write them down and share them with your doctor. For example:
- If you have chest pain, is it dull or sharp? Does the feeling go away and come back? It can feel like uncomfortable pressure “like an elephant sitting on your chest,” or like squeezing, fullness or tightness.
- How often do you feel these symptoms? All the time? Certain times of the day? Right now?
- What makes your symptoms better or worse? Walking, climbing stairs, lying down or anything else?
- Any changes in your regular activities? For example, if walking your dog leaves you feeling more tired than usual, tell your doctor.
Our physicians often perform cardiovascular risk assessments so you can learn more about your likelihood of having a heart attack, signs and symptoms to look for and how to control your cholesterol and blood pressure, among other things.
You should also tell your doctor about the information you read on the internet. For medical information, you should turn to reliable websites, like medical schools, university teaching hospitals, reputable nonprofit agencies like the American Heart Association, or government sites like the National Institutes of Health or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Your cardiologist can share other reliable websites.
After your research, you may have many questions for your doctor but make sure you ask about:
- Your diagnosis, and what it means for your health
- Your vital statistics, such as your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels
- Do you need medicine, and if so, does the medicine have side effects (and what to do if you experience side effects)
- Your weight, and is it healthy
- Do you need to change anything in your lifestyle, such as diet and exercise
- Do you need further testing, and when you should start feeling better
- How soon you should come back for a follow-up
You may also receive medical advice from friends, relatives, and co-workers. While well-meaning, take this advice with healthy skepticism (unless your friend is a doctor).
However, no amount of internet research or advice from friends can replace an examination by a trained, board-certified cardiologist. In fact, for major procedures, your insurance may require a second opinion. As the only hospital within 40 miles that performs open-heart surgery, we have more than a dozen board-certified surgeons, physicians and providers here on the cardiology team to take care of you.
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