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Questions to Ask Your Doctor

Open, Honest Conversation with Your Doctor

Keeping your heart healthy starts with an open, honest conversation with your doctor.

It's important to actively discuss things like diet changes, exercise and medications with your healthcare team. You should also know your blood pressure and your cholesterol numbers-and understand what they mean.

Below are some questions you might consider asking your physician, provided by Dr. Joseph Kannam, cardiologist with the CardioVascular Institute at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and the American Heart Association.

Choose the questions most appropriate for you, write them down, in order of importance, and bring them to your next appointment.

Questions to Ask About Heart Health

  • What are my risk factors for heart disease?
  • What are the warning signs of a heart attack?
  • What is the appropriate weight for my height and body build? What is my Body Mass Index (BMI?)?
  • What is a healthful eating plan for me?
  • What kind of physical activity is right for me?
  • What is my blood pressure, and is it at a healthy level?
  • What is my blood cholesterol, and is it at a healthy level?
  • What can I do to lower my risk of heart disease?
  • If you lead a stressful life - What impact does stress have on the heart and how can I lower my stress level?
  • If you're a woman --What should I know about the effects of menopause on heart disease?

Questions to Ask About Cholesterol

  • What do my cholesterol numbers mean?
  • How often should I have my levels checked?
  • How does physical activity affect my levels?
  • What type of diet should I eat?
  • Will I need cholesterol-lowering medicine?
  • How long will it take to reach my cholesterol goals?

Questions to Ask About High Blood Pressure

  • What should my blood pressure be?
  • How often should my blood pressure be checked?
  • What about home blood pressure monitors?
  • Should I use blood pressure machines at stores?
  • How does physical activity affect my blood pressure?
  • What's my daily sodium (or salt) limit? Are there any other lifestyle measures that can lower my blood pressure?
  • Will I need to take blood pressure medicine?
  • Will I always have to take medicine?
  • Will I need to lose weight?

Questions to Ask About Losing Weight

  • Why are weight control and regular physical activity important?
  • How much weight should I lose, and how fast? What is a realistic weight goal for me?
  • How often should I check my weight?
  • What should my daily calorie, fat and cholesterol intake be?
  • Are prescription diet pills appropriate for me?
  • Will exercise help me lose weight t? If so, what kinds of activities do you recommend?
  • Once I lose the weight, how do I keep it off?
  • What diet guidelines should I follow?
  • What are the best types of activities for me?
  • How much activity do I need to do?
  • How much weight gain is too much?
  • How can family and friends help?

Questions to Ask About Physical Activity

  • 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
  • If you have heart problems - Is it safe to have sex? Can I take Viagra?

Questions to Ask About Diet

Learn to read food labels so you can tell how much fat, sodium and other ingredients are in your diet. If your doctor tells you to "watch your diet" or make dietary changes, ask for specifics.

Questions you can ask are:

  • What kinds of foods should I eat and not eat?
  • Should I restrict my calories, fat or salt intake to a certain level?
  • What are some cooking tips that I should follow?
  • What do I need to know about eating out?
  • Do I need to see a nutritionist or dietitian? If so, can you recommend one?
  • Should I keep a diary of what I eat?
  • Are there any groups in the community that can help me with my nutrition goals?

Questions to Ask About Quitting Cigarettes and Tobacco

  • What can I do to stop smoking?
  • Can I take a smoking cessation medication?
  • How can family and friends help?
  • What if I slip and go back to tobacco?
  • How long will it take to reduce my risk?

Questions to Ask About Your Medication

Millions of Americans are prescribed medications to keep heart disease risk factors in check. But many don't take their medications as directed.

It's important you take part in decisions regarding your treatment, follow the treatment plan you and your doctor agree on, watch for problems and become actively involved in solving them with your healthcare team.

Here are a list of possible questions you may want to review with your doctor or pharmacist about your medications.

  • What is the medicine suppose to do?
  • How and when do I take it, and for how long?
  • What foods, drinks, other medicines or activities should I avoid while taking this medicine?
  • What are the possible side effects and what should I do if they occur?
  • Is there any written information available about the medicine?
  • What happens if I miss a dose of my medicine?
  • Can I stop taking this medication at any time?
  • Will my insurance cover this medication? And if not, are there less expensive options?

Above content provided by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in partnership with the American Heart Association. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.

Contact Information

CardioVascular Institute at
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
330 Brookline Avenue
Boston, MA 02215

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