February is American Heart Month, a time when we can all refocus on our cardiovascular health. This is a good time to schedule a heart-to-heart with your primary care provider (PCP) to ask them all you need to know about your heart health.
We’re here to help you organize what types of questions to ask at your appointment, along with some heart health tips. By being proactive, you can keep your heart in good shape and prevent heart disease.
Primary Care for Your Heart
Since your heart is a primary component of your overall health, it’s important to make sure it’s strong. While patients normally think of their primary care provider as their go-to for common colds and annual check-ups, your PCP is your partner in whole health. They can determine your risk of heart disease through a routine exam, which makes those annual check-ups even more important.
Your PCP will start by checking your blood pressure and heart rate. These are simple but important measures for your heart health. They will listen to your heart and lungs and check for swollen feet and ankles. You might not notice these little details, but by doing all of these checks, your PCP is caring for your heart.
Other tests your PCP might conduct to check your heart health are blood tests to check for cholesterol and diabetes, and an EKG (electrocardiogram) to measure the electrical activity of your heartbeat.
Along with gathering information through testing, your PCP will likely ask you about your medical history, your family health history and your lifestyle, such as your diet, whether or not your smoke and how much you exercise. They can recommend lifestyle changes, prescribe medicines and refer you to a cardiologist if necessary.
Questions to Ask at Your Appointment
Whether you’re at the doctor for a routine visit or you’ve been experiencing symptoms, it can be daunting to know which questions to ask and where to start, especially when it comes to something as important as your heart. Here are some questions to start with:
- Am I at a healthy weight?
- Can we discuss the symptoms I’m having?
- Can we go over my medications?
- Do I need to take any supplements?
- How do I reduce stress?
- How is my blood pressure and heart rate?
- What can I do to improve my heart health?
- When should I have a follow-up visit?
Heart Health Tips
Here are some tried and true tips to help keep your heart healthy for life:
- Don’t smoke: Smoking doubles your heart attack risk and makes it less likely you’ll survive if you do suffer cardiac arrest.
- Eat a balanced diet: Eat foods low in cholesterol, saturated fat, salt and refined sugars and high in fiber, vitamins and minerals to maintain healthy cholesterol and blood pressure and weight.
- Exercise: At least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise or 75 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic activity spread throughout the week is recommended.
- Know your numbers: A normal heart rate is between 60 and 100 beats per minute. An ideal blood pressure is within the range of less than 120 for systolic (highest reading) and less than 80 for diastolic (lowest reading), which reads as 120/80. Most doctors consider anything above 140/90 as high blood pressure, and below 90/60 as low blood pressure.
- Manage stress: Exercise, meditate, pray, talk to friends or a counselor or spend time doing what you love. Find what works for you.
Care from the Heart
Taking care of your heart with healthy lifestyle choices and partnering with your primary care provider is the best formula for preventing heart disease. Your primary care provider can help you manage any risk factors and help you meet your goals.
We want you healthy and whole. Whether you need preventive care with our skilled, compassionate primary care providers, or more specialized care for your heart with our world-class cardiovascular team, we’re here for you. Schedule your appointment for a heart-to-heart today.