Tips for Talking to Your Cardiologist

How to get the most out of your appointment

Coming to your appointment prepared with questions and lists of important information can mean a much more productive experience for you and your cardiologist. It can even mean a better health outcome.

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“Think of your care as a partnership in which you should feel comfortable and take an active role,” advises Maan Fares, MD, a cardiologist with the Cleveland Clinic Sydell and Arnold Miller Family Heart & Vascular Institute. “Be prepared with questions when you meet with them.”

Visiting a cardiologist can be stressful, especially when an individual is concerned about their health and unsure about their future. It may feel like things are out of your control, but there are some proactive steps you can take to prepare for and ensure the success of your appointment:

Prep tips: Before your appointment

  • Get copies of your recent medical records and test results. The actual films on a CD are the best for doctors to review along with the written report.
  • Write down your symptoms, when they occur and what makes them worse or better.
  • List your cardiac risk factors, family history is especially important.
  • Compile a list of your medications – include prescription medications and over-the-counter medications, including any vitamins and supplements.
  • Also include a list of medications you may have tried in the past for your condition and had an allergic reaction or poor response to.
  • Write down any specific questions you have, and include the most important reason you are seeing your cardiologist (specific symptom, second opinion, etc.)

Day of: What to bring

  • The above lists and questions to share with your cardiologist.
  • A notebook and pen. Don’t be afraid to take notes, and jot down any questions that come up.
  • A spouse or someone you trust as a second set of ears. It is hard to remember everything, and they may think of additional questions or provide insight from a caregiver’s perspective.
  • If you are seeing your cardiologist as a follow-up or for a second opinion, remember to write down what happened to you since your last visit (had an emergency room visit, poor reaction to medications, any concerning or new symptoms, etc.)

FAQ cheat sheet

The following questions may be helpful to have in your back pocket for these common appointment situations.

If you need any tests:

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  • What is the test for?
  • What are the risks of the test?
  • What does the test involve?
  • When will I get the results?

If you are given a diagnosis:

  • What is the diagnosis?
  • What does it mean for you or your family?

If a treatment is suggested:

  • Why do I need this treatment?
  • What are the possible risks and benefits to this treatment?
  • Are there any alternatives?

If a medication is recommended:

  • Are there any side effects?
  • How often do I take it?
  • Do I need to change my diet or be careful of over-the-counter medication interactions?

Additional guides

For more appointment success tips, Dr. Fares suggests the following resources:

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After your appointment

Before you leave your physician’s office, find out how often and when you will need to follow up with your doctor. Also be sure to ask what number to call if you have questions once you get home. It is perfectly acceptable and recommended that you call if questions or new issues arise.

Your doctor, the medical team and you are all partners in your care. To achieve the best outcomes, each participant needs to understand the treatment plan, follow the plan and communicate. If any questions come up, the treatments are not helping or you experience side effects, consult your care team. Not all people respond the same to a particular treatment – sometimes a care plan may need to be adjusted to reach your goals.

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