Questions to Ask Your Doctor

If you've been diagnosed with heart disease, there are key questions that you should ask your cardiologist and care team during your next appointment. These questions help ensure that you and your doctor have a productive conversation so that you can become or stay as healthy as possible.

  • How do symptoms of a heart attack differ between men and women?
  • What symptoms should prompt me to call 911?
  • After I’ve had a heart attack, how long will I have to stay in the hospital?
  • If a stent is placed in an artery, for how long should I take anti-platelet medication? Does this depend on the kind of stent I receive (drug-eluting versus bare metal)?

  • How soon after a heart attack can I participate in an exercise program?

  • When is it safe to engage in sexual intercourse after a heart attack?
  • What dietary changes should I make following a heart attack?
  • How often should I see a physician following a heart attack?
  • What risk factors should be strictly controlled after a heart attack?
  • Will I need regular stress tests?
  • What risk factors predisposed me to having a heart attack?
  • How can I enroll in cardiac rehabilitation?
  • What distinguishes chronic angina from a heart attack?
  • Does having angina mean that I have blockages in the arteries that supply my heart with blood?
  • What medications are available to treat angina?
  • What changes in my anginal symptoms should alert me to notify my physician?
  • What are the side-effects of medications used to treat angina (particularly beta-blockers and calcium channel blockers)?
  • I have tried many medications for angina but I continue to have symptoms. Is there a role for ranolizine? Other therapies?
  • What risk factors are associated with angina?
  • Can I continue to exercise if I have angina?
  • What lifestyle changes can I make to reduce my anginal symptoms?
  • Should I have a stress test for angina?
  • Should I undergo an elective cardiac catheterization to look for blockages in my arteries?
  • What risk factors are associated with the development of an aortic aneurysm?
  • What symptoms of aortic aneurysm should prompt me to seek medical attention?
  • When should an aortic aneurysm be repaired?
  • Who should be screened for aortic aneurysms?
  • How often should my doctor order tests to monitor the size of my aortic aneurysm?
  • Are aortic aneurysms hereditary?
  • Are aortic aneurysms associated with other medical conditions?
  • If I need to have my aortic aneurysm repaired, should I undergo an open-repair or an endovascular repair?
  • Should I be screened for aneurysms in other parts of my body?
  • Are there any restrictions to my exercise program because of aortic aneurysm?
  • What are the symptoms of aortic valve regurgitation?
  • How often should I see a physician for my aortic valve regurgitation?
  • Do I need regular echocardiograms to monitor the severity of my aortic valve regurgitation?
  • Should I limit my physical activity due to my aortic valve regurgitation?
  • Will I need my aortic valve replaced?
  • What if I have other leaky valves?
  • Should I be tested for a connective tissue disorder?
  • Is aortic valve regurgitation hereditary? If so, should my relatives be screened?
  • What lifestyle changes should I make because of aortic valve regurgitation?
  • I feel lightheaded at times; can this be associated with aortic stenosis?
  • How often should my physician monitor my aortic valve for changes in its area?
  • What is the appropriate timing for cardiac surgery to treat aortic valve stenosis?
  • What symptoms of aortic valve stenosis would push me towards having my valve repaired?
  • Am I a good candidate for less invasive treatment approaches for aortic valve stenosis, such as a Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR)?
  • Are there any medications that I should stop taking after being diagnosed with aortic stenosis?
  • Should I limit my physical activity because of aortic valve stenosis?
  • Is my valve bicuspid (meaning it has two leaflets)? If so, how does this predispose me to aortic stenosis?
  • What changes happen to the heart after having aortic stenosis over time?
  • Can aortic valve stenosis lead to chest pain?
  • What symptoms of aortic valve stenosis should prompt me to seek immediate medical care?
  • What vessels in my body can be affected by atherosclerosis?
  • How does atherosclerosis lead to a heart attack?
  • Are there medications that I should take to lower my risk of developing atherosclerosis?
  • How does diabetes lead to atherosclerosis?
  • What dietary changes should I make to reduce my risk of developing atherosclerosis?
  • How does atherosclerosis of my carotid arteries predispose me to stroke? Transient ischemic attacks (TIAs)?
  • As an atherosclerosis patient, would I benefit from a cardiac rehab program?
  • How does smoking impact my risk of developing atherosclerosis?
  • Can atherosclerosis be reversed with appropriate therapy?
  • Are there any foods I should avoid because of atrial fibrillation?
  • What is causing my atrial fibrillation?
  • What type of atrial fibrillation do I have (e.g., paroxysmal, persistent, permanent)?
  • What kind of activities can I perform and what should I avoid?
  • Is my atrial fibrillation hereditary?
  • Has my heart been weakened by the atrial fibrillation?
  • What medicines should I take to control my heart rate?
  • What medicines can I take to control my heart rhythm?
  • If my heart returns to the normal rhythm, can I stop my blood thinners?
  • Should I have a procedure to restore a normal heartbeat?
  • Do I need blood thinners to avoid a stroke? What kind (e.g., aspirin, warfarin, dabigatran, rivaroxaban)?
  • Will I still feel symptoms even if I am taking medicines for atrial fibrillation?
  • If I take a medicine or have a procedure, what are the odds that it will work?
  • The shock treatment (cardioversion) returned my heart to the normal rhythm but the atrial fibrillation is back. Is there anything I can do?
  • My heartbeat is no longer fast but I still feel tired and short of breath. Is there a next step?
  • What caused my cardiomyopathy?
  • Do I need a stress test to search for the cause of my cardiomyopathy?
  • What are the symptoms of cardiomyopathy?
  • Could a heart attack have caused my cardiomyopathy? If so, how should this be evaluated?
  • Could high blood pressure contribute to my cardiomyopathy?
  • Do I need to restrict my physical activity because of cardiomyopathy?
  • What medications should I take to manage my cardiomyopathy symptoms? What are the side-effects of these medications?
  • Will I need a pacemaker for my cardiomyopathy?
  • As a cardiomyopathy patient, should I weigh myself daily?
  • Are there certain foods I should avoid because of my cardiomyopathy?
  • What is the name of my/my child's congenital heart defect and would you explain it to me?
  • What caused my/my child's congenital heart defect?

  • Should my blood pressure be taken in a specific arm?
  • Do I need to take antibiotics before going to the dentist?
  • What symptoms should I consider an emergency?
  • May I have a copy of my ECG to keep with me in case of an emergency?
  • Are there sports or activities that are dangerous for me or I should avoid?
  • What is my usual oxygen saturation? Why is this important?
  • Are there types of contraception that I should avoid?
  • Will my child require lifelong care for the congenital heart defect?
  • Does pregnancy put me at specific risk due to my congenital heart disease?
  • Where can I find more information about my/my child's condition?
  • How will the defect be fixed?
  • What can I expect for my child’s development and lifestyle as he/she grows?
  • Are there medications that we should avoid?
  • Is it OK to travel?
  • In an emergency, what do I tell EMS or the emergency room doctors/nurses?
  • Will I/my child always have to see a cardiologist?
  • Are there support groups for patients or families?
  • What are the risks that I will have other children with a heart defect?
  • What are the symptoms of coronary artery disease?
  • How do you diagnose coronary artery disease?
  • Should I have a procedure (stress test or cath) to diagnose coronary artery disease?

  • How do you treat coronary artery disease?
  • Do I need to take aspirin the rest of my life?
  • What medications should I be on?
  • What can I do to stop or reverse coronary artery disease
  • Can I exercise or have sex?
  • What are the risk factors for deep vein thrombosis?
  • If I've had a deep vein thrombosis, should I be screened for any blood-clotting disorders?
  • Can a clot in my legs travel to my lungs?
  • How can I prevent blood clots in my legs?
  • For how long should I take a blood thinner such as coumadin?
  • Am I a good candidate for alternatives to coumadin, such as rivaroxaban?
  • I've had a deep vein thrombosis, should I be screened for cancer?
  • Is deep vein thrombosis hereditary?
  • Does a deep vein thrombosis limit my mobility?
  • Since I have deep vein thrombosis, should my family members be screened for blood clots too?
  • What risk factors predisposed me to developing a dilated cardiomyopathy? If so, are these reversible?
  • Can dilated cardiomyopathy affect my heart valves?
  • Are there viruses that could have led to my dilated cardiomyopathy? If so, will this improve over time?
  • What are the symptoms of dilated cardiomyopathy?
  • What medications should I take to prevent dilated cardiomyopathy from worsening?
  • Am I a candidate for advanced therapies if medications are insufficient for my dilated cardiomyopathy?
  • Will I need a pacemaker or cardiac resynchronization therapy for my dilated cardiomyopathy?
  • Does dilated cardiomyopathy limit my exercise capacity?
  • How often should my cardiac function be monitored because of dilated cardiomyopathy?
  • Should I follow a special diet because of dilated cardiomyopathy? Any dietary restrictions?
  • What predisposed me to develop endocarditis?
  • How is endocarditis diagnosed?
  • Can endocarditis affect my other organs such as my kidneys, brain, lungs and skin?
  • What factors are considered in determining the role and timing of cardiac surgery for endocarditis?
  • For how long do I need to take antibiotics for endocarditis? What are the side-effects of these antibiotics? Do these antibotics need to be intravenous or oral?
  • What is the difference between a transesophageal echochardiogram (TEE) and a transthoracic echocardiogram (TTE)?
  • Is endocarditis different when it affects prosthetic valves as compared with native heart valves?
  • Should I take antibiotics before dental procedures to prevent endocarditis?
  • What is the follow-up after endocarditis?
  • Should I restrict my physical activity because of endocarditis?
  • Can you explain what happens to my heart during a heart attack?
  • Should I go to cardiac rehab?
  • What activities can I do and what do I need to avoid? What about sexual activity? Driving? Travel?
  • What can I do to lessen my risk of a heart attack?
  • When and how should I use nitroglycerin?
  • What medications do I need to take? What medications or prescription medications should I avoid?
  • How long will I need to take medicine?
  • If I need to take a common over-the-counter medicine from the drugstore to treat a cold or lessen pain, which ones are safest for me?

  • What diet do I need to follow?
  • What is my self-care plan
  • What should I do if I have chest pain, shortness of breath or feel like I'm going to pass out?
  • Can you give me easy-to-read fact sheets on my condition and recommend some websites with the right information on heart disease?

  • What are the symptoms of heart block?
  • How is heart block diagnosed?
  • Is my heart block reversible?
  • Should I be referred for a pacemaker placement because of my heart block?
  • How long does it take to recover after a pacemaker placement?
  • Will I have exercise and weight lifting restrictions after a pacemaker placement?
  • Can treating Lyme disease cure my type of heart block?
  • Is my heart block hereditary Should my family be tested?
  • What type of heart block do I have?
  • What is the difference between first, second and third degree heart block?
  • What is heart failure and what is the cause of mine?
  • What is my current heart function?
  • What is my prognosis?
  • What are my treatment options?
  • Which of my medicines is for heart failure?
  • Would I benefit from advanced therapy like a defibrillator or left ventricular assist device?
  • What signs and symptoms should I look for to tell me my heart failure is getting worse?
  • When should I call you?
  • What can I eat and how much alcohol can I drink?
  • How much sodium should be in my diet?
  • What sort of exercise should I do, and what should I avoid?
  • Is my heart murmur due to a leaky or tight heart valve?
  • Will my heart murmur resolve?
  • Do I need an ultrasound of the heart, also known as an echocardiogram, to evaluate my heart murmur?
  • What are the symptoms of heart valve disease?
  • How often should I see a doctor for this heart murmur?
  • Should I restrict my physical activity because of a heart murmur?
  • Is a heart murmur hereditary?
  • Do I need to take antibiotics prior to dental procedures because of my heart murmur?
  • Will I need surgery or another treatment for my heart valve(s)?
  • What is high blood pressure, and what causes it?
  • Are there any symptoms or signs that my blood pressure is too high?

  • What is the best blood pressure for me?
  • What are the consequences of not controlling my blood pressure?
  • How do I correctly check my blood pressure at home? How often should I check it?

  • What does untreated high blood pressure do to my body
  • What medicines do I need to take and for how long?
  • Is it better to take more of one medicine or multiple medicines
  • Will I need blood work after starting some of these medicines? What are we looking for on the blood work?

  • What can I do to keep my sodium intake to under 1,500 mg?  What types of foods lower blood pressure?

  • How does being overweight affect my blood pressure. What type of diet should I begin to lose weight?
  • What type of exercise is best to lower my blood pressure
  • How does stress affect my blood pressure, and what can I do to lower my stress levels?

  • High blood pressure is a risk factor for coronary disease. Have I been screened for coronary disease?

  • What is “good” cholesterol and what does it do?

  • How can I increase my “good” cholesterol?

  • What is “bad” cholesterol and what does it do?

  • How can I decrease my “bad” cholesterol?

  • What medications are available for high cholesterol? Do they have side effects?

  • When should I take medication for cholesterol?

  • Is high cholesterol hereditary?

  • What is cholesterol and why is it important?

  • How often should I have my cholesterol checked?

  • Does high cholesterol cause symptoms?

  • What is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy?
  • How is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy diagnosed?
  • Why is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy important?
  • Is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy hereditary?
  • What are symptoms of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy that I should watch for?
  • If I have hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, when do I need treatment?
  • What treatment options are available for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy?
  • How often should I follow up with my doctor about hypertrophic cardiomyopathy?
  • Who should be screened for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy?
  • What are the long term consequences of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy?
  • What is metabolic syndrome and why is it important?
  • How common is metabolic syndrome?
  • How much does metabolic syndrome increase my cardiovascular disease risk?
  • Do people with metabolic syndrome have a lower life expectancy?
  • If I have some, but not all of the characteristics of metabolic syndrome, do I still have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease?
  • Can metabolic syndrome be reversed?
  • What can I do to decrease my risk if I have metabolic syndrome?
  • Are there metabolic syndrome support groups I can join to help keep me motivated?
  • How often should I see my doctor if I have metabolic syndrome?
  • Are there medications I can or should take for metabolic syndrome?
  • Is metabolic syndrome more common in men or women?
  • What is mitral valve prolapse?
  • Why is mitral valve prolapse important?
  • How do I know if I have mitral valve prolapse? Are there symptoms I should watch for?
  • How common is mitral valve prolapse?
  • Is mitral valve prolapse more common in men or women?
  • Does mitral valve prolapse require treatment? If so, when?
  • What are the treatment options for mitral valve prolapse?
  • How often should I follow up with my cardiologist or primary care physician about mitral valve prolapse?
  • How is mitral valve prolapse monitored over time?
  • What is the risk of mitral valve prolapse if it is not corrected?
  • What is mitral valve regurgitation?
  • Why is mitral valve regurgitation important?
  • How do I know if I have mitral valve regurgitation? Are there symptoms I should watch for?
  • How common is mitral valve regurgitation?
  • Is mitral valve regurgitation associated with other diseases?
  • Does mitral valve regurgitation require treatment? If so, when?
  • What are the treatment options for mitral valve regurgitation?
  • Does mitral valve regurgitation make having other valve defects more likely?
  • How often should I follow up with my cardiologist or primary care physician for mitral valve regurgitation?
  • How is mitral valve regurgitation monitored over time?
  • What is the risk of mitral valve regurgitation if it is not corrected?
  • What is mitral valve stenosis?
  • Why is mitral valve stenosis important?
  • How do I know if I have mitral valve stenosis? Are there symptoms I should watch for?
  • How common is mitral valve stenosis?
  • Is mitral valve stenosis associated with other diseases?
  • Does mitral valve stenosis require treatment? If so, when?
  • What are the treatment options for mitral valve stenosis?
  • Is surgery always necessary for mitral valve stenosis?
  • What are the risks of mitral valve stenosis surgery? Are there noninvasive methods of correcting it?
  • Does mitral valve stenosis make having other valve defects more likely?
  • How often should I follow up with my cardiologist or primary care physician about mitral valve stenosis?
  • How is mitral valve stenosis monitored over time?
  • What is the risk of mitral valve stenosis if it is not corrected?
  • What is pericarditis?

  • Why is pericarditis important?

  • How do you get pericarditis?

  • What are the symptoms of pericarditis?

  • What tests are needed to diagnose pericarditis?

  • How common is pericarditis
  • What is the treatment for pericarditis?

  • How long does it take for the treatment to improve my symptoms?
  • Does having pericarditis once make it more likely to get it again?
  • What are the complications of pericarditis?
  • What are the risks of pericarditis if left untreated?
  • If I have pericarditis, should I limit my activities?

  • What is peripheral arterial disease (PAD)?

  • What are the risk factors for PAD?

  • What are the symptoms of PAD?

  • Is PAD associated with other diseases?

  • Does having PAD increase my risk of having a heart attack or stroke?

  • What causes PAD?

  • How is PAD diagnosed?

  • How is PAD followed and how often?

  • What is the treatment for PAD?

  • Are there lifestyle changes I should make if I have PAD?

  • How can I prevent PAD if I don’t have it yet?

  • What is prediabetes and how is it diagnosed?
  • Why is prediabetes important?
  • Does everyone with prediabetes eventually get diabetes?
  • How can I prevent prediabetes if I don't have it?
  • How can I prevent diabetes if I have prediabetes?
  • Does prediabetes increase my risk of cardiovascular disease?
  • Are there symptoms of prediabetes? If so, what are they?
  • What are the risk factors for getting prediabetes?
  • How is prediabetes followed, and how often should I see my doctor?
  • Are there support groups for people with prediabetes?
  • Will I need to take medications for prediabetes?
  • What lifestyle changes can I make to reduce my risk of prediabetes?
  • What is a pulmonary embolism (PE)?
  • What are the symptoms of a pulmonary embolism (PE)?
  • What conditions are associated with or increase the risk of pulmonary embolism (PE)?
  • What medications are associated with or increase the risk of pulmonary embolism (PE)?
  • How is a pulmonary embolism (PE) diagnosed?
  • What are the treatment options for a pulmonary embolism (PE)?
  • How long will I need to be on blood-thinning medications if I have a pulmonary embolism (PE)?
  • If I have one pulmonary embolism (PE), are my chances higher for having another PE?
  • How can I prevent a pulmonary embolism (PE)?
  • If I've had a pulmonary embolism (PE), does this mean I shouldn't travel?
  • How common are pulmonary emboli?
  • What is restrictive cardiomyopathy?
  • What are the symptoms of restrictive cardiomyopathy?
  • How is restrictive cardiomyopathy diagnosed?
  • What are the risk factors for restrictive cardiomyopathy?
  • What are the treatment options for restrictive cardiomyopathy?
  • If I have restrictive cardiomyopathy, will I be able to lead a normal life?
  • Can I prevent restrictive cardiomyopathy? If so, how?
  • Are there other diseases that are associated with restrictive cardiomyopathy?
  • How common is restrictive cardiomyopathy?
  • What are the complications of restrictive cardiomyopathy?
  • How often should I follow up with my cardiologist or primary care physician about restrictive cardiomyopathy?
  • How will the severity of my restrictive cardiomyopathy be monitored over time?
  • What is a stroke?
  • What are the symptoms of a stroke?
  • What is a mini-stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA)?
  • Does having a TIA increase my risk of a stroke?
  • Does having a stroke increase my risk of having a heart attack?
  • What are the risk factors for having a stroke?
  • How is a stroke diagnosed?
  • What are the treatment options for stroke?
  • If I’ve had a stroke, do I have an increased risk for another stroke?
  • When are blood thinners necessary? How is this decision determined?
  • What are the differences between blood thinning medications? How do I know which one is right for me?
  • What are the risks of blood thinning medications?
  • How can strokes be prevented?
  • How common are strokes?
  • Are strokes hereditary?
  • What is supraventricular tachycardia (SVT)?
  • What causes supraventricular tachycardia (SVT)?
  • What are the symptoms of supraventricular tachycardia (SVT)?
  • How is supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) diagnosed?
  • How common is supraventricular tachycardia (SVT)?
  • Does supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) always require treatment?
  • What are the treatment options for supraventricular tachycardia (SVT)?
  • What medications are used for supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) and what are the side effects I should watch for?
  • What are the risks of supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) if left untreated?
  • Does supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) increase my risk of cardiac arrest?
  • What is an electrophysiologist and when should I see them in addition to my general cardiologist?

  • How often should I follow up with my cardiologist or primary cared doctor about supraventricular tachycardia (SVT)?
  • Can supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) be prevented?
  • Is supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) hereditary?
  • What is a transient ischemic attack (TIA)?
  • What are the symptoms of a transient ischemic attack (TIA)?
  • If I have what sounds like transient ischemic attack (TIA) syptoms, when should I see a doctor?
  • How is a transient ischemic attack (TIA) diagnosed, especially if my symptoms go away before I see a doctor?
  • What are the risk factors for a transient ischemic attack (TIA)?
  • What are the treatment options for transient ischemic attack (TIA)?
  • Will I need to be on blood-thinning medications if I have a transient ischemic attack (TIA)? If so, what are the options and how do I know which of these is right for me?
  • Does transient ischemic attack (TIA) increase my risk of stroke or heart attack?
  • How common are transient ischemic attacks (TIAs), and how often do they progress to stroke?
  • How can I prevent having a transient ischemic attack (TIA)?
  • If I've had a transient ischemic attack (TIA), will I need to be followed by a cardiologist or neurologist, or both?
  • What is Type 2 Diabetes?
  • How is Type 2 Diabetes different from Type 1?
  • How common is Type 2 Diabetes?
  • Are there certain groups of people at higher risk for Type 2 Diabetes?
  • What are the symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes?
  • How is Type 2 Diabetes diagnosed?
  • What are the risk factors for Type 2 Diabetes?
  • What are the treatment options for Type 2 Diabetes? When should I try lifestyle changes instead of medications?
  • When do I have to start taking insulin? What is the difference between all of the different kinds of insulin?
  • Can Type 2 Diabetes be reversed? If so, how?
  • How often should I see my doctor if I have Type 2 Diabetes?
  • How does Type 2 Diabetes change my risk for other diseases, including cardiovascular disease?
  • What support groups and resources are available to me?
  • Does Type 2 Diabetes run in families?
  • What are varicose veins?
  • What causes varicose veins?
  • Are varicose veins more common in women than men?
  • What are the treatment options for varicose veins?
  • Does having varicose veins mean I’m at higher risk for other circulatory and cardiovascular diseases?
  • What are the risk factors for varicose veins?
  • Can I prevent varicose veins?
  • What are the complications of varicose veins?
  • Are there lifestyle changes I can make to improve varicose veins?
  • When should I see a doctor about my varicose veins?
  • I stand a lot in my daily life, and I can’t change that. What can I do to prevent my varicose veins from worsening?
  • If I have varicose veins, do I need tests for other circulatory problems?
  • What is ventricular tachycardia (VT)?
  • What are the symptoms of ventricular tachycardia (VT)?
  • What are the complications of ventricular tachycardia (VT)?
  • How is ventricular tachycardia (VT) diagnosed?
  • What are the risk factors for ventricular tachycardia (VT)?
  • What are the treatment options for ventricular tachycardia (VT)?
  • How common is ventricular tachycardia (VT)?
  • What medications are used for ventricular tachycardia (VT) and what side effects should I watch for?
  • What are the risks of ventricular tachycardia (VT) if left untreated?
  • What is an electrophysiologist and when should I see them in addition to my general cardiologist?

  • When will I need a pacemaker or defibrillator for ventricular tachycardia (VT)?
  • What is the difference between a pacemaker and a defibrillator?
  • How often should I be seen by a cardiologist if I have ventricular tachycardia (VT)?
  • If I have ventricular tachycardia (VT), should I limit my physical activity?
  • How are the symptoms of coronary artery disease different in men versus women?
  • How common is coronary artery disease in women?
  • What are the risk factors for coronary artery disease in women?
  • What is atypical chest pain?
  • How can I distinguish cardiac chest pain from chest pain of a different source?
  • When should I seek medical attention if I think I have atypical chest pain
  • How can women be screened for coronary artery disease?
  • Are there support groups and resources specifically for women?
  • How do I find a cardiologist who specializes in women’s cardiovascular health?