Early diagnosis and treatment of coronary artery disease (CAD) is your best chance for a good outcome. If you have any reason to believe you may have heart disease, you should see your doctor.
Your primary care doctor, such as an internist or general practitioner, is the first doctor to see if you are having symptoms of heart disease. They will likely suggest preventive lifestyle changes, prescribe any necessary medication, coordinate your general medical care, and maintain your medical records. Your doctor may also refer you to specialists, such as a cardiologist.
Your doctor may refer you to a cardiologist for further evaluation and treatment. A cardiologist is a doctor who specializes in the treatment of people who have heart problems. A cardiologist will likely conduct a variety of diagnostic tests and procedures to determine if you have CAD.
If you need to have open-heart surgery, it will be performed by a cardiothoracic surgeon. An interventional cardiologist or cardiovascular radiologist will perform balloon angioplasty, stent placement procedures, diagnostic catheterization, and other minimally invasive procedures.
Early CAD often has no symptoms. You may discover you have CAD as the result of a routine physical exam. If you are having symptoms, preparation will help you get the most from your doctor’s appointment.
Information to Bring to Your Appointment
Having lists with the following information handy will be helpful.
- your symptoms and how long you have had them
- all medications and supplements you are taking
- all medical conditions you have
Questions to Ask Your Doctor
Having a list of questions written in advance will help you remember what you want to ask. If you are seeing your primary care physician, you may want to ask some of the following questions:
- What do you think is causing my symptoms?
- What tests do I need?
- Should I see a specialist?
- What should I do in the meantime?
- What symptoms might mean I need emergency care?
If you have been referred to a cardiologist, you may want to ask these questions:
- What exactly do I have?
- What medications do I need to take?
- Are there any alternatives?
- What can I expect in the future?
- Will diet and lifestyle changes help? Will they be enough?
- Do I or will I need surgery?
- Will I get better?
These questions are samples. You should add your own to the list.
Questions Your Doctor Will Ask You
You should be prepared to answer the following questions from your doctor:
- What are your symptoms?
- How long have you had them?
- Have they gotten worse over time?
- Does exertion make them worse?
- Do you have chest pain?
- Do you have shortness of breath?
- Does anyone in your family have a heart condition?
- What other medical conditions do you have?
- What medications are you taking?
- How much do you exercise?
- What is your typical diet?
- Do you smoke? How much?
- Do you drink? How much?
- Do you use drugs such as cocaine or methamphetamines?
- Have you ever had radiation therapy?
Being diagnosed with CAD can cause fear, anxiety, stress, and depression. Talk to family and friends about how you feel. Tell your doctor about your feelings, as well. He or she may recommend that you consult a mental health professional. Talking with a therapist can help you deal with the feelings you are having. You might also want to join a support group. It is helpful to interact with other people who are having similar experiences and feelings and learn about how they are coping.