6 Ways To Get the Most from Your Cardiac Care

Get involved with your cardiac treatment plan
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You can get the most from your cardiac treatment by being an active partner of the medical team. Here are six simple steps to starting down the path of active involvement in your own heart health.

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Tip 1: Prepare

Going in for a first-time appointment with a cardiologist or cardiac surgeon can be overwhelming. Preparing for your first visit ensures that you will get the most out of your appointment. Some tips for before and during your visit:

Write down your questions or concerns and bring these to your appointment. Heart problems are complex; don’t keep these concerns to yourself. No question or thought should remain unexplored.

Bring a family member to your visit. Not only can a trusted relative boost your confidence, an extra set of ears always helps. There is so much information that it is almost impossible for one person to remember it all.

Take notes or ask your family member to do it for you.

The more information you can provide to your doctor, the better, says Benico Barzilai, MD, Section Head of Clinical Cardiology and Medical Director of the Stress Testing Lab. “We really want to know what medication you’re taking, what allergies you have and what medications were stopped due to side effects. I also like to know about any previous cardiac procedures or tests. I always review old test results whenever I have a new patient, and I always want to know about any recent hospitalization or emergency room visits,” he says.

Tip 2: Know your health history

Write down your medications and major medical history and keep it in your wallet. This information can be a lifesaver in an emergency or if you are traveling.

Use your smart phone to store and share important health information and create reminders for upcoming appointments. If your doctor uses an electronic medical record (EMR) with patient or caregiver access, sign up! This will allow you access to the most current health information, test results, and facilitate communication with your medical team.

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Tip 3: Stick with the plan

Take your medications – this is especially critical for patients with heart disease. High blood pressure doesn’t have symptoms, so make sure you keep taking your medications even if you feel just fine.

Discuss any conflicts or issues you might have with your treatment plan during an appointment with your doctor. Don’t stop therapy or start on an alternative without talking about it first.  A second opinion can also help you to understand your treatment options.

Call your doctor if you have questions when you get home.

Tip 4: Organize

Keep a list of your doctors and providers. There are many players in a comprehensive cardiac team.

Keep records of blood pressure, blood sugar, exercise or other factors if your doctor asks you to do so.

Tip 5: Learn

Ask your doctor or provider for brochures or other ways of finding more information about your condition.

Read about your condition on the Internet from reputable websites.

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Discuss lifestyle changes you need to make to control your condition – such as diet changes, an exercise plan, and any recommendations or restrictions you need to follow. Many instances of heart attacks can be prevented with simple lifestyle changes.

Tip 6: Share

Take part in patient support groups as recommended by your physician.

Participate in organized cardiac rehabilitation classes.

Surround yourself with supportive family members and friends as part of your satellite support network.

Emotional wellness plays an especially important role in how you manage your cardiac care, treatment and recovery.

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