The 6 Smartest Heart Health Questions to Ask Your Doctor

Here's how to get the most out of your next appointment.

One of the best ways to prepare for an upcoming medical appointment is to write down your questions ahead of time. However, many people draw a blank as the date approaches, and only later realize they've missed an opportunity for targeted advice. That's why we've asked two cardiologists to share the smartest heart health questions patients can ask. Read on to learn which six questions you should have ready at your next cardiac appointment.

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Can we spend some time talking about…?

Doctor consoling senior patient at home - wearing face mask

Many medical offices now have patient portals where you can contact your doctor by message outside of office hours. Yu-Ming Ni, MD, a cardiologist at MemorialCare Heart and Vascular Institute at Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California says giving your doctor an overview of your concerns ahead of time or bringing them listed on paper to your appointment can help ensure you don't miss any major talking points.

"Please come to the clinic with questions you want to ask," Ni implores. "Your doctor is more than happy to spend the visit telling you what they are concerned about and what you should be doing for your health—but a conversation goes both ways. You should also have the chance to share your concerns too."

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Would medication be beneficial?

doctor writing prescription virtually
Peopleimages / iStock

If you've been diagnosed with a chronic heart condition, lifestyle interventions can help you make major heart health improvements. However, according to Rigved Tadwalkar, MD, a board certified cardiologist at Providence Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, California, it's important to check in with your doctor about when and whether medication may be necessary by asking whether prescriptions and procedures would be more likely to help than lifestyle habits alone.

"Oftentimes it can be difficult to know on our own whether more advanced interventions are needed to reduce the risk of, or treat heart disease," explains Tadwalkar. "This is where a good primary care physician or cardiologist can be of critical importance. Unfortunately, many individuals wait too long to establish care and find themselves in a position that could have been avoided by taking the necessary steps towards better heart health earlier on."

While keeping an open mind to various treatment options, Tadwalkar suggests discussing the full range of risks, benefits, and alternatives available to you.

What aspect of my health are you most worried about?

female doctor consulting male patient on heart concern

One way to ensure that you and your doctor are seeing eye to eye about your health is to ask what aspect of your health causes them most concern.

"A patient might be concerned about something that they feel or see, such as energy level or weight. A doctor might be concerned about an unhealthy trend in the patient's numbers, such as blood pressure or kidney function," explains Ni. "Ideally, both the patient and the doctor share the same concerns and talk about them, but sometimes this isn't the case. Asking your doctor about what they are worried about can help keep everyone on the same page and can help to explain the medicines and tests that the doctor is ordering for you," he adds.

Should I take a daily aspirin?

Senior woman talking to doctor

Tadwalkar says that one of the most common heart health questions is definitely one worth asking: whether you should be taking a daily low dose of aspirin to improve heart health.

"This is a question on many people's minds and a great one to ask the doctor," the cardiologist says. "The true answer depends on a number of factors including medical history, age, and preferences. Each individual's medical situation should be evaluated carefully by their physicians before an answer is determined."

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Why am I having [insert embarrassing symptom]?

older man with dementia holding hands with doctor
Shutterstock/Robert Kneschke

Any time you have a health concern, it's important to share it with your doctor—even if you're embarrassed to bring it up, Ni says.

"Many patients are afraid to ask about a variety of embarrassing symptoms that can be side effects of medications," says the cardiologist. For instance, he notes that beta blockers—often used to lower blood pressure in patients with heart health issues—are known to affect sexual performance and sex drive. If your doctor is unaware of such side effects, they will be unable to help correct them. "The clinic is a judgment-free zone, so don't be afraid to ask," encourages Ni.

Can you be more specific?

Middle aged couple talking to young doctor

Finally, your doctor or cardiologist may offer advice for making lifestyle changes at home. Ni says you should ask your care provider to "be more specific" so that you have a tangible plan of action by the time your appointment ends. "Your doctor may have instructed you to exercise more, but how much is 'more?' Take a moment to come up with a goal that you can achieve before the next visit," he suggests.

It's OK if those goals are modest, as long as you and your doctor agree that they're safe and beneficial. "Maybe you want to walk five days a week instead of just two. Maybe all you think you can commit to is putting your running shoes on and walking to the mailbox and back. No success is too small when it comes to good health and wellness," he says.

Lauren Gray
Lauren Gray is a New York-based writer, editor, and consultant. Read more
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