Regular checkups with your primary care physician are usually no big deal. When you’re referred to a cardiologist, it can cause a great deal of anxiety. Getting a referral may or may not be cause for concern, but the experience will be less nerve-wracking if you know what to expect before your appointment.
What to Bring to Your Appointment
The cardiology office will already have a record of your referral and your physician’s reasons for requesting a second opinion. However, your doctor may or may not have sent over a chart with your health history. This is one of the items you should bring with you to your appointment, along with a list of questions or concerns you want to be addressed. You should also bring:
- A list of all of your current medications. This includes any over the counter medications, supplements, and prescriptions. One medication may or may not affect your heart, but a combination of medications could. This is especially true with over the counter meds and herbal supplements, which may or may not contain drug interaction or health warnings. Your cardiologist will need a complete accounting of anything you’re taking for health or nutrition reasons.
- The names and contact information for all of your doctors. The cardiologist has probably been in touch with your primary care physician. They may also want to confer with – or at least be aware of – other healthcare providers about prior treatment or diagnoses. At Indus Healthcare, like some other offices, they do both primary care and cardiology in the same practice. In this case, they are going to have all your records already. But if your primary care doctor is not in the same practice, you will want to be sure that the cardiologist has your primary care doctor’s information as well as your other doctors’ contact information in order for your personal team to all work together on your care.
- Your own health history. Chances are, your current physician is not your first or only doctor. You should compile a list of any previous treatments, surgeries and major illnesses.
- Your family history. Genetics plays a big part in your future health. You may not necessarily develop heart problems just because your father or a grandparent did, but having a family history makes you more vulnerable to future problems. Your cardiologist also may not know to check for certain conditions if you don’t tell them about your family’s medical history.
What to Expect During Your Appointment
It’s important for you to be in a good state of mind and calm when you arrive for your appointment. Follow all pre-appointment directives about eating, smoking and sleep to make sure that any test results will be accurate. You’re probably familiar with the routine and equipment at your doctor’s office. A cardiology examination will include equipment and procedures you’ve never experienced before, which can add to your anxiety.
After a preliminary discussion, the doctor will probably ask about any irregularities you’ve noticed, such as how you feel after exertion, problems with sleep and your mental or emotional state. After going over the reason for your referral and taking a quick listen to your heart, you will probably undergo several diagnostic tests.
Tests and Equipment
The most common is an electrocardiogram (EKG). Even if you’ve never had one before, you’ve probably at least seen them used in movies or on TV. Electrodes will be placed at strategic points on your chest, and the information obtained will be fed back to a machine. The test checks for irregularities related to heart rhythm and other issues.
Other tests will check how your heart performs at rest and under stress. One of these is simply called a heart stress test. You’ll be required to get on a treadmill with electrodes again placed on the chest, feeding information back to the testing apparatus. The test doesn’t last very long, but it may seem like a workout. You’ll begin by walking on a flat treadmill conveyor, with the speed and level of incline increased at increments of about 15 percent every 30 seconds to one minute.
You’re not allowed to eat just prior to the test or have any stimulants like caffeine or nicotine for 24 hours before this test. A technician may also take your blood pressure at certain points during the test, and it may be used in conjunction with a nuclear dye test. The stress test last about 10 minutes or until you reach maximum heart rate.
Follow up Visits and Aftercare
If any abnormalities or health problems are discovered by your cardiologist, you will be scheduled for a follow-up appointment. You may also be called to meet with your primary care physician after (s)he has been apprised of the results. Treatments for cardiovascular issues can range from changes in diet to surgery.
Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death. With a proper and early diagnosis, you can improve your heart health and increase your chances of living a longer life. Regular care and evaluation from a credentialed cardiologist are especially important after a certain age or if you have a family history of heart disease or related conditions.