What to Ask my Cardiologist
Receiving a diagnosis of heart failure is scary. There is no way to sugarcoat it. There will be a ton of questions and concerns that will flood the mind. Making an appointment with a cardiologist can be the first step.
Cardiologists are extensively trained to diagnose and treat all different types of heart failure. When the appointment time comes, our minds can go blank and we forget the things we wanted to discuss and what questions to ask. This has happened to me with several doctors' appointments over the years. I leave to head home and then remember the things I totally forgot to ask and feel really upset. When planning to see a new doctor for the first time here are some helpful tips of things you might want to consider asking.
What is heart failure?
This question might sound silly but I would absolutely ask your cardiologist to really explain in detail what heart failure is.
What type of heart failure do I have?
There are several different types of heart failure and each has different ways to treat it. Ask for clarification on which kind you have. It is possible to have more than one type which is why it is important to find out which one you are living with.
What are my treatment options?
Ask about what different treatment options there are and which one(s) your doctor is recommending for you specifically. Inquire about the pros and cons of each. There are many both medical and non-medical options depending on the type and severity of your heart failure. Don’t be afraid to ask about any possible treatment options you may have heard about on your own and if they think it would be a good option.
What are the recommended lifestyle changes?
Often times heart failure treatment will include lifestyle changes. These include healthy eating, exercise, and stopping smoking just to name a few. Your doctor will have some really good suggestions for you personally that can make a significant difference in how you feel overall while also helping to manage heart failure. They might have a low impact exercise regimen they can recommend and things to watch out for symptom wise while still being as active as you are able.1
What about testing?
Find out what testing they recommend you have to further diagnose your heart failure or to confirm a heart failure diagnosis if you haven’t already gotten one. If you have had testing done, ask about the results and what specifically they mean. Doctors will often have bloodwork and other routine tests done often to monitor your heart failure.
Heart failure has different classifications/stages. There are two different systems that are used so be sure to ask which your specific doctor uses and what each stage means. They are the New York Heart Association or NYHA classification and the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association ACC/AHA system.2
What do my symptoms mean?
Tell your doctor and & all symptoms you might be having. Ask them what symptoms you should look out for if your heart failure flares up and when to contact them and/or seek medical attention.
These are just a few examples of things to discuss with your cardiologist, regardless if it is your very first appointment or a subsequent follow-up. I would recommend keeping a list with you where you write things down as you think of them (I keep a note running on my smartphone) and be sure to bring it with you to your appointments to refer to so you don’t forget anything.
Do you use exercise to help manage your heart failure?