Whom should I talk to regarding my heart condition?
Why is it important to consult a doctor?
If patients feel they need more information or are struggling to cope and have exhausted all options, there are professionals who can help. Improving the care that patients receive, comes through clear communication with their healthcare team.
They can answer all your questions and concerns. By knowing the patient’s health profile, the doctor can give adequate advice on how to manage your condition and reduce the risks of developing a cardiovascular disease (CVD).
Smooth communication with the doctor requires simple communication skills and preparation before medical visits.
Get your lipids checked
Dyslipidemia usually has no visible symptoms, but certain populations are at higher risk. People with family members who have high cholesterol are at high risk of developing dyslipidemia at a younger age1.
In this regard, a simple blood test must be conducted to prevent any complications. For most healthy adults, it is recommended to have cholesterol checked every four to six years2. As the age advances, regular check-ups are necessary. Some people may need to check their cholesterol more often. This is case for patients with heart disease, diabetes, or family history of cholesterol1. The doctor will be the best person to explain the results and how to manage cholesterol levels based on your health profile.
Be prepared, speak up, and clarify!
To make your visit to the doctor as efficient as possible, you need to prepare properly. Prior to the visit, patients can write down some questions for their doctor:
A. Ask questions regarding your cholesterol test3
- What do my cholesterol numbers mean?
- What is my cholesterol goal?
- How often should I have my levels checked?
- Do I need to exercise? What types of exercises, and how often?
- Do I need to lose weight? How much, and what diet should I adopt?
B. Ask questions regarding your symptoms4
When making a diagnosis, the doctor will assess the different symptoms that you might have experienced. Patients should tell their doctor all the symptoms they have had during the past months.
C. Assess your risks of developing CVD3
In addition to questions regarding cholesterol numbers, patients should assess their heart risk with the doctor. They can ask the following questions2:
- What are my risk factors for heart disease?
- Am I at risk for a heart attack or stroke?
- What are the warning signs of heart disease and stroke?
- How can I lower my risks?
D. Discuss on the best lifestyle changes to adopt that match your profile3
Lifestyle changes are key themes to be explored with the doctor. Adopting healthy habits that are suitable for your health profile is a must to lower your cholesterol and risk for developing CVD. Here are some questions that patients can ask their doctor3:
- What kinds of foods should I eat?
- What kinds of foods should I avoid?
- Should I restrict my calorie or fat intake to a certain level?
- Do I need to see a nutritionist or dietitian? If so, can you recommend one?
- How do I read food labels?
- How can I control the portions? How much salt may I eat?
Concerning physical activities2:
- Why is regular physical activity important?
- Can I exercise?
- Can I play sports?
- What are the best types of activities for me?
- How much activity do I need?
The list of questions to ask is not exhaustive. Patients should not be afraid to speak up, and they should keep in mind that no questions are bad.
Have you been stressed, frustrated, or lost with the doctor’s explanations. Do not worry. Here are some tips that can help make the communication as clear as possible.
Simple tips to ease the communication with your doctor
Sometimes, healthcare professionals provide information that might be difficult to follow and understand.
A. Ask for clarification4
Patients should not be afraid to ask questions, such as “Could you clarify? and “I don’t understand; can you explain it simpler?”, to have clearer information.
To make sure that patients have clearly understood what the doctor said, they can rephrase by using their own words. At the end of the discussion, try to make a review. To do so, you can use these sentences: “You told me that I need to…” and “We agreed that….”
C. Write down the information4
Do not hesitate to write down all the information provided by the doctor during or after the appointment. Prior to writing down each piece of information, do not hesitate to recap with the doctor what you understood from his/her explanations. At the end of the consultation, do not hesitate to recap with your doctor everything you wrote down to ensure that all the information you got is correct and well understood.
Patients should also express their physical and psychological difficulties, emotions, and all their concerns. Do not hesitate to speak up with your friends and family; you are not alone in this journey!
Patients must remember these key steps:
1. Be prepared with a list of questions,
2. Clarify and speak up when you do not understand,
3. Review what the doctor said during the appointment,
4. And write down all the information
Getting better starts with an efficient visit and communication with the doctor! Consult your doctor to discuss the challenges you face when dealing with dyslipidemia.
- British Heart Foundation, Focus on: Familial hypercholesterolemia, https://www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/heart-matters-magazine/medical/familial-hypercholesterolaemia#:~:text=About%20one%20in%20250%20people,even%20know%20they%20have%20it., Accessed November 9, 2020
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Getting Your Cholesterol Checked. https://www.cdc.gov/cholesterol/cholesterol_screening.htm#:~:text=Most%20healthy%20adults%20should%20have,their%20cholesterol%20checked%20more%20often Published 2020. Accessed October 30, 2020
- American Heart Association. Cardiac Rehab Questions for Your Healthcare Professional. https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/cardiac-rehab/communicating-with-professionals/cardiac-rehab-questions-for-your-healthcare-professional Published 2020. Accessed October 30, 2020.
- American Heart Association. Preparing for Medical Visits. https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/cardiac-rehab/communicating-with-professionals/preparing-for-medical-visits Published 2020. Accessed October 30, 2020.