Questions for Your Heart Doctor: A Patient's Guide

Your doctor has spent many years studying the way the body works in health and disease. You may be able to benefit more from that knowledge if you ask questions that are important for your individual health. The doctor may be able to correct some of your misapprehensions and unnecessary worries, and make your life better. Some sample questions that may be pertinent to your individual health are listed below. You may have many more. If you don’t understand the answers that are given to you, don’t be afraid to ask for a further explanation. It serves no one well for you to be confused about your own health.

I understand that I can’t change certain risk factors for heart disease such as  my family history, gender, race or age, but there are things that I can do to lower my individual risk. I also understand that you can estimate my risk of having a heart attack or stroke in the next 10 years using the Framingham risk assessment tool. If I don’t change my behavior, am I at high risk for a heart attack or stroke?

What can I do to lower my risk of being incapacitated from a cardiovascular event?

Can I get help in controlling the risk factors that can be modified such as diabetes, smoking, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol or other lipids, and obesity?

With respect to diabetes: how often should I check my blood sugar? What would a weight loss down to an ideal weight do for me? What medicines should I take? How often should I have my eyes checked? How often should by glycohemoglobin and kidney function be rechecked? Did you check the pulses in my feet?

With respect to smoking: will cutting down over time be better, or stopping “cold turkey”? Can you give me some help in stopping? How much difference will it make if I stop smoking? I smoke a cigar or pipe not cigarettes, is that the same? How much damage has already been done to my lungs?

With respect to high blood pressure: how often should my blood pressure be checked? At what levels should I be concerned or let you know? What medications should I take? How often should my electrocardiogram be taken, should my kidney function be tested?

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