If you have heart disease, or are simply concerned about your heart health, your best ally is your doctor. Building an effective working relationship with your medical provider is one of the most important steps you can take to safeguard the health of your heart. Whether you’re looking for a new doctor, or simply want to open a heart-smart dialogue with your current one, try these strategies.
Develop Your “Talking Points”
To get the most out of your doctor visit, prepare before you go. Write down how you are feeling, what symptoms you are experiencing, what you do for your symptoms, and if you notice anything that tends to affect your symptoms. Be as specific as possible even if you think it’s a minor point.
Write down any questions you have. Ask questions specific to the heart health issues you’re facing:
- If you have high blood pressure, you may want to ask what your readings should be, whether you should check your pressure at home, what changes to make to your diet, and if your medication is working well enough.
- If you have heart failure, your questions might address key aspects of daily living, such as lifestyle changes you should make, fitness activities you can do to improve heart health, and side effects you might be experiencing from your medications.
- If your heart is healthy, ask about steps to keep it that way. Be up front about your lifestyle including your exercise level and your typical food and alcohol intake.
Bring the list or a notebook with you. Show the list to your doctor at the beginning of the appointment. Use the list to stay focused and to write down the answers. It is so easy to forget the answers once you leave the office.
PACE Your Appointment
To make the most of the few minutes you have with your doctor, use the “P.A.C.E.” method:
- P: Provide specific information about how you feel, what you do for your symptoms, and if you have noticed what might affect your symptoms.
- A: Ask your questions and write down the answers.
- C: Clarify what you hear by repeating the information to be sure you understand it.
- E: Express any concerns you have about your condition, medications, tests or treatments.
The Language of Medicine
If you don’t understand exactly what your doctor is saying, it may be hard to carry out your “doctor’s orders” in between office visits. Taking care of yourself is important, so don’t be shy about speaking up.
Having trouble understanding? Simply say, “I don’t understand what that means. Could you put it in layman’s terms for me?”
Ask the doctor’s office if they have fact sheets regarding specific forms of heart disease and how to keep your heart healthy. These fact sheets are usually written in layman’s terms, not medical jargon.
Remember, your health is more important than feeling embarrassed about any lack of knowledge in front of the doctor. Be an advocate for your own well-being.
Find the Right Doctor for Heart Health
Your doctor is your partner in health. To find the right doctor for you:
- Start with a referral list from your primary care doctor or recommendations from family or friends.
- Research the doctor’s credentials, training, experience, and board certification. Confirm that they have no history of malpractice claims or disciplinary actions.
- Consider the quality of care at the hospital where the doctor can treat patients.
- Use a “get to know you” appointment to see if you feel comfortable talking with the doctor and if you feel he or she will support your information needs.
Often times after you meet with or talk to a doctor, you’ll know if a doctor is a good fit. Be sure to take the time to find the right doctor for you. After all, in some cases you’re putting your life in your doctor's hands, so you want to feel confident about your decision.
- Your doctor is your partner in heart health. Communication between the two of you will build the best working relationship.
- Make the most of every doctor visit by preparing questions in advance. Bring your list with you, jot down the answers, and clarify anything you don’t understand.
- When looking for a new doctor, start by getting recommendations from people you trust, do your research, and interview your doctor choices.
This article is part of a series of heart health articles produced for the Healthgrades Pledge for Heart Health campaign. The Pledge for Heart Health campaign is a Facebook application that asks people to virtually pledge that they’ll talk to their doctor about heart health. For each pledge received in the month of February 2013, Healthgrades will donate $1 to the American Heart Association (up to $10,000).