What to Expect at Your First Cardiologist Visit
Seeing your cardiologist for the first time without preparation can produce anxiety. Knowing what a cardiologist will do during your first visit and preparing can help you relax and get the most out of your upcoming appointment.
Your primary care doctor takes care of your overall well-being. However, you will be referred to a cardiologist if your doctor finds a potential heart condition.
Cardiologists are specialists in heart health. Cardiologists have up to 16 years of education to understand and treat complex heart conditions.
Your physician will refer you to a cardiologist if they suspect one of the following:
- Signs of an impending heart attack
- Heart rhythm disturbance
- Heart defect
- Hardening of the heart arteries (atherosclerosis)
- Infection or other problems
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What to Expect
Every appointment has different goals. Your first appointment will likely be a time to get to know your cardiologist and better understand your heart condition.
Be prepared to do the following:
Discussing Your Medical History
Your cardiologist will most likely ask you about your medical history, your symptoms and your personal and family history of heart disease.
Complete a Physical Examination
Your cardiologist might complete a medical examination. This includes checking your weight and testing for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and other risk factors for heart disease.
Order Diagnostic Tests
The cardiologist may order diagnostic testing, such as blood tests, an X-ray, stress test or electrocardiogram. Further testing ensures you are getting the most accurate, complete diagnosis.
Your cardiologist will need to see lab results before creating a treatment plan. Based on your test results, they will write you a prescription, suggest necessary lifestyle changes or refer you to a cardiovascular surgeon if needed.
First Cardiologist Visit Checklist
To make the most of your cardiologist appointment, please consider bringing these items:
- Bring a list of current medications, including the name of each medication, dose and how often you take it.
- Bring a document listing all current health care providers, which helps your entire care team better communicate with one another.
- Bring copies of recent lab results.
- Bring your entire medical history, including any current or past illnesses and prior procedures.
- Know and be able to communicate your family health history of heart disease. Understanding family history helps your physician detect if heart disease runs in your family. Know the history of your immediate family, grandparents, aunts and uncles.
Also, ask your primary care physician for tips on what to bring to your cardiologist appointment. For example, your physician may remind you to bring a vital test result or help you fill any holes in your medical history.
It may also be beneficial to learn more about your condition before your appointment. A basic understanding of your illness may free up time for further questions you have for the doctor.
Finally, write a list of questions you may have about your heart condition.
Suggested Questions to Ask Your Cardiologist
Write down at least three questions you have for your cardiologist before your appointment. This will help your visit feel productive and informative. Here are some examples:
- What lifestyle changes should I make to help my condition?
- Can you explain ____ test results to me?
- Should I make any changes to my daily activities?
- What warning signs should I watch for that indicate my condition is worsening?
- How will my condition progress?
What Should You Do After Your Appointment?
Your cardiologist appointment is an essential step in managing your heart condition. By preparing for your visit and understanding what to expect, you can make the most of your time with your doctor.
However, what you do after your appointment could be considered more important than what you do to prepare.
After your cardiologist appointment, you should:
Make Necessary Lifestyle Changes
If your cardiologist suggests lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking or starting an exercise program, make these changes as soon as possible.
Keep All Future Appointments
Sticking to your treatment plan and keeping all follow-up appointments with your cardiologist is essential.
Understand Your Medications
Ask your pharmacist or cardiologist if you have any questions about your medications. Make sure you know how often to take your medicine, what the side effects are and what to do if you miss a dose.
Manage Your Risk Factors
If you have any risk factors for heart disease, such as high blood pressure or diabetes, work with your primary care physician to keep these conditions under control.
Know Warning Signs of a Heart Attack
If you experience chest pain, shortness of breath, nausea, lightheadedness or pain in your jaw, arm or back, call 911 immediately. These may be signs of a heart attack.
Ask for Help When Needed
Don’t be afraid to ask family and friends for help managing your condition. They can provide support and assistance when needed.
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