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Talking to Your Doctor About Heart Failure

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You have a unique medical history. Therefore, it is essential to talk with your doctor about your personal risk factors and/or experience with heart failure. By talking openly and regularly with your doctor, you can take an active role in your care.

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 don't forget them.
  • Write down the answers you get, and make sure you understand what you are hearing. Ask for clarification, if necessary.
  • Don't be afraid to ask your questions or ask where you can find more information about heart failure. You have a right to know.

The following are some suggested questions to discuss with your doctor, recommended by the American Heart Association:

  • What is my diagnosis?
  • Is the heart failure mild, moderate, or severe?
  • Am I or is anyone in my family at risk for developing heart failure?
  • What can I do to prevent heart failure?
  • What are the treatment options for my condition?
  • 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 medications are available to me?
    • Are there any medications, in particular, that would be of benefit to me?
    • What are the side effects of these medications?
    • What should be done if these side effects occur?
    • Will these medications interact with other medications, over-the-counter products, or dietary or herbal supplements that I am already taking?
  • What is the name of the medication? Is this the brand or generic name? Does it matter which one is used?
  • What is the medication supposed to do?
  • How and when should it be taken—and for how long?
  • What foods, drinks, and other medication should be avoided while taking this medication?
  • Is any written information available about the medication?
  • If a certain medication is causing side effects that are difficult to deal with, is there some way to minimize those side effects? Is there another equally good medication available?
  • 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?
    • Exercise?
    • Stop smoking?
  • If I make these changes, how will they benefit 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?
  • Will I benefit from a support group? If so, can you recommend one?
  • Will I need a cardiac rehabilitation program?
  • What is the likely progression of the condition?
  • What are the most important things we can do to manage this condition?

Revision Information

  • Heart failure. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated October 7, 2013. Accessed October 9, 2013.

  • Heart failure questions to ask your doctor. American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HeartFailure/HeartFailureToolsResources/Heart-Failure-Questions-to-Ask-Your-Doctor%5FUCM%5F306372%5FArticle.jsp. Updated April 2, 2013. Accessed October 9, 2013

  • Tips for talking to your doctor. American Academy of Family Physicians Family Doctor website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/healthcare-management/working-with-your-doctor/tips-for-talking-to-your-doctor.html. Updated November 2010. Accessed October 9, 2013.