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Talking to Your Loved Ones about Heart Health

Hands Holding Heart

Sometimes people at risk for a heart problem aren’t as concerned as those around them. While it can be tough to watch a loved one face a possible health concern, it’s important to show them you care.

We’ve previously shared five things that can help persuade your loved one to visit a cardiologist. Heart Month is the perfect time to add to this list, so here are five additional things to consider when talking to a loved one about their heart health.


1. Cardiology Enhances Primary Care

Primary care physicians have an important role to play in your loved one’s health. They offer routine screenings, vaccinations, and treatments. But when it comes to heart problems, primary care physicians may not be able to address specific concerns or offer advanced tests and treatments. That’s why they refer patients to cardiologists. These doctors receive extra education and training in preventing, diagnosing and treating heart problems.

If your loved one is on the fence about seeing a cardiologist but has a good relationship with their primary care physician, encourage them to start there. Primary care physicians often screen for heart disease and refer patients to a cardiologist if needed.

Here’s additional advice on choosing a cardiologist.

2. It’s About More Than Heart Attacks

Cardiologists are experts in common heart and vascular problems, such as heart attacks, strokes, and arrhythmia. But they also treat many other heart conditions. In addition, some cardiologists specialize in certain parts of the heart or specific tests, treatments, and conditions.

Your loved one doesn’t need a diagnosed heart problem to talk to a cardiologist. People with diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, a history of smoking, or a family history of heart conditions should keep these issues in check with help from a cardiologist.

3. Genetics Aren’t Fate, But They Are a Factor

Many heart conditions, including high cholesterol and early coronary artery disease, have a strong genetic component. In fact, studies show that having a brother, sister or parent with a history of early heart attack or stroke increases the risk of these events two- to four-fold.

But genetics don’t guarantee heart disease. That’s why it’s important to collect and record family medical histories and work with a cardiologist who specializes in preventing heart diseases that run in the family.

Learn more about commonly inherited heart diseases.

4. “Doctor Google” Isn’t Always Right

While the Internet offers many helpful resources on heart health, not everything you read online is accurate. Some information is not peer reviewed or written by medical experts. Other times, articles contain outdated information. Cardiology is an ever-changing field!

What’s more, Googling symptoms can lead to overwhelming and confusing results. The Internet can’t take into consideration a person’s personal and family history, risk factors, current medications, and more.

If a loved one is unsure about information they’ve found online, encourage them to talk to a cardiologist. These doctors receive in-depth training and stay up-to-date on the latest research.

5. Preparation is Key

Visiting a cardiologist shouldn’t be stressful! Your loved one and their doctor should strive for a collaborative relationship, which means being prepared to ask questions, take notes, and provide information.

Before an appointment, help your loved one get copies of recent medical records and test results to bring with them. Having these records available will help their cardiologist get a comprehensive overview of their medical history.

Then help them jot down some basic information:

  1.  Symptoms, including when they occur and for how long
  2.  Family medical history
  3. Medications, including prescriptions and over-the-counter medicines
  4. Allergies
  5. Any questions they have        

When it comes time for the appointment, encourage them to go with someone to serve as a second set of ears. Encourage them to follow treatment plans carefully and schedule follow-up appointments as needed.

Here’s more advice on preparing for a doctor’s appointment.

About this Blog

The Penn Heart and Vascular blog provides the latest information on heart disease prevention, nutrition and breakthroughs in cardiovascular care.

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