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How to talk with your doctor; start early to prevent heart disease

September 16, 2022 at 10:00 p.m.

Q: I can't get a straight answer from my doctor about how to manage my weight. Got any insider tips on how to improve our communication? -- Alyese F., Pasadena, California

A: Every doctor has a responsibility to listen to a patient's concerns and questions and provide understandable, complete responses. But patients need to accept responsibility for their end of the conversation -- and communicate what they are wondering/worrying about. You are an essential partner in any health care relationship. When it comes to weight loss, you want to find a motivational strategy that works for you and your doctor.

That's especially important because studies show that many doctors are uncomfortable talking about a patient's weight. One survey found that only 39% of obese folks had ever been told by a health care professional they were obese. So, tell your doc, "I want an in-depth conversation about managing my weight." Then, if your doctor cannot help you manage your weight, ask for a referral to someone who can.

Whatever the health issues, patients who are actively engaged in their health care process have better outcomes. So, here are some ways you can take charge of your next interaction with your doctor(s).

n Take a list of questions you want to ask. Write down the doctor's answers.

n When possible, bring someone with you to listen and review info after the appointment.

n Never hesitate to ask the doctor, "What does that mean?" "What am I supposed to do next?" "What are you going to do next?" "Will you repeat that, please."

n Ask for printouts of test results, records and appointment notes or access electronic medical records through your patient portal.

n Don't hesitate to set up a second, follow-up appointment so you have time to talk.

n If you're given a serious diagnosis, ask for a reference to another doctor for a second opinion. No good doctor will object.

I hope I heard you and responded in a way that helps. If not, let me know!

Q: I come from a family in which everyone seems to have heart disease! My brother and I are 25 and 28 years old and would like to be on the lookout for warning signs. What should we be aware of? -- Samantha R., Omaha, Nebraska

A: You're smart to take the risks of heart disease seriously -- and give yourself the chance to dodge problems. One study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that you can reduce your risk of genetically related coronary disease by almost 50% through smart lifestyle choices about food and exercise. If you also tackle stress management and keep air pollution exposure to a minimum using air filters and avoiding smoking and vaping, you can reduce your risk by 80%. And, we know these choices prevent erosion of heart heath in everyone.

Unfortunately, even folks who take pretty good care of themselves can develop cardiovascular problems that are easy to overlook.

n People can mistake symptoms of a heart disease, like shortness of breath or angina, for acid reflux or some other "oh, it's nothing" problem. And, if you're having a heart attack, while chest pain is symptom No. 1 for men and women, women-and some men-may not have chest pain and instead experience shortness of breath, sweating or a cold sweat, unusual fatigue, nausea and lightheadedness.

n Then there's stroke, which can be genetically related, too. Typical symptoms include a drooping face, arm weakness and speech difficulty. Women, however, are more likely than men to experience headache, altered mental state, coma or stupor.

n Irregular heartbeat, heart failure, valve disease, and vein and artery disease are other easy-to-overlook-or-ignore cardiovascular risks that can run in families and/or result from poor lifestyle choices.

So, I hope you and your brother get regular heart health checkups and are making smart lifestyle choices. For more info, check out GreatAgeReboot.com; and if any symptoms are present, go to the most available of your docs, urgent care or the emergency room.

Health pioneer Michael Roizen, M.D., is chief wellness officer emeritus at the Cleveland Clinic and author of four No. 1 New York Times bestsellers. His next book is "The Great Age Reboot: Cracking the Longevity Code for a Younger Tomorrow." Do you have a topic Dr. Mike should cover in a future column? If so, please email [email protected]

King Features Syndicate

Print Headline: How to talk with your doctor; start early to prevent heart disease

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