Talking to Your Doctor About Heart Failure
You have your own health history. It is key to talk with your doctor about your risk factors and experience with heart failure. By talking openly and regularly with your doctor, you can take an active role in your care.
General Tips for Gathering Information
Here are some tips that will make it easier for you to talk to your doctor:
- Bring someone else with you. It helps to have another person hear what is said and think of questions to ask.
- Write out your questions ahead of time so you do not forget them.
- Write down the answers you get. Make sure you understand what you are hearing. Ask the doctor again if you are having trouble understanding what they say.
- Do not be afraid to ask your questions or ask where you can find more information about heart failure. You have a right to know.
Specific Questions to Ask Your Doctor
The following are some suggested questions to discuss with your doctor, recommended by the American Heart Association:
About Heart Failure
- What is my diagnosis?
- Is the heart failure mild, moderate, or severe?
About Your Risk of Heart Failure
- Am I or is anyone in my family at risk for heart failure?
- What can I do to prevent heart failure?
About Treatment Options
- What are the treatment options for this?
- What side effects are caused by this treatment?
- What is likely to happen without treatment?
- Are there any alternative or complementary therapies that will help me?
- What medicines are available to me?
- Are there any medicines, in particular, that would be good for me to take?
- What are the side effects of these medicines?
- What should be done if I have any side effects?
- Will these medicines interact with other medicines, over the counter products, or dietary or herbal supplements that I am already taking?
- What is the name of the medicine? Is this the brand or generic name? Does it matter which one is used?
- What is the medicine supposed to do?
- How and when should it be taken—and for how long?
- What foods, drinks, and other medicines should be avoided while taking this medicine?
- Is any written information available about the medicine?
- If a certain medicine is causing side effects that are hard to deal with, is there some way to minimize those side effects? Is there another equally good medicine available?
About Lifestyle Changes
- What are some specific ways that daily life will change?
- Can I still work, play golf, have sex, do the laundry? Be sure to ask about any specific activity that you have in mind.
- What strategies have other people found useful for motivating themselves to:
- Eat better?
- Stop smoking?
- If I make these changes, how will they help me?
- Will these changes cure my heart failure?
- Should I see a specialist?
- What should we expect within the next few weeks, months, and years?
- Would a support group help me? If so, can you suggest one?
- Will I need a cardiac rehabilitation program?
- What is the likely progression of the condition?
- What are the biggest things we can do to manage this condition?
- Heart failure questions to ask your doctor. American Heart Association website. Available at: https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/heart-failure/heart-failure-tools-resources/heart-failure-questions-to-ask-your-doctor.
- Heart failure with reduced ejection fraction. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/heart-failure-with-reduced-ejection-fraction.
- Tips for talking to your doctor. Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: https://familydoctor.org/tips-for-talking-to-your-doctor.
- Michael J. Fucci, DO, FACC
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This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
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