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Visiting a cardiologist for the first time might seem intimidating, but detecting a problem and taking early steps to treat it greatly increases your chances of living a longer, healthier life. By making a few simple preparations beforehand, you can take full advantage of your visit.
What to Expect
Your first cardiologist appointment will usually last up to an hour. A nurse practitioner or physician's assistant might conduct the first visit. You will be asked both general health questions and some more specific questions related to the reason for your visit. A physical examination follows, and if necessary the doctor might arrange for further testing. The cardiologist might prescribe medication or provide your primary care provider with recommendations. In other situations, you may be admitted to a hospital or referred to a cardiovascular surgeon or other specialist.
What to Bring
Some information is absolutely essential for any cardiologist appointment, and you should be prepared to take notes. It's helpful to have everything well-organized in a folder so that your doctor can make the most accurate assessment possible. Key information to have on hand includes:
- A list of your medicines, or the medications themselves. Your pharmacy or primary health care provider can put together this information if you don't have it. You may even want to throw them in a sealable bag and bring them along. It is important to include any vitamins and supplements. Make sure to include any medications that you were prescribed within the past year, even if you no longer take them.
- Family medical history. Your family history is filled with important clues, so be thorough, especially including what you might know about instances of high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure among your close relatives.
- Your own medical history. List your surgeries, along with medical procedures, including diagnostic work-ups such as MRIs and lab reports.
- A list of all your health care providers. This should include any that you are currently seeing or have visited in the last two years. Dentists, chiropractors, and natural-healing practitioners are all worth mentioning, among others.
- Your own questions. If you have some idea why you're seeing a cardiologist, do some research to learn about it. Use sites such as the American Heart Association, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Institutes of Health, and write down questions about anything that is unclear to you.
Your cardiologist is an important member of your care team -- a team that centers around you and your health. Take full advantage of the time, develop a good personal connection, and remember that no matter how small the detail, there's nothing too minor to bring up at your appointment. You never know what information could lead to the right diagnosis and treatment.