Your Role in Your Heart Health Your Heart, Your Health-Your Role
Having a chronic condition like heart disease means, for most people, a lifetime of regular healthcare visits. It's paramount that you learn to make the most of your encounters with all of these healthcare professionals. The best doctors, nurses, nutritionists and other professionals in the world can't make much difference if you don't do your part.
Your role in your health care management is the biggest factor in your success.
People tend to have the best results in taking care of themselves when they have
- Education and information about their condition and ways to treat it
- Emotional support from family and friends
- Confidence in themselves and their ability to make good decisions about their care
In other words, playing an active role in your care is essential. Communicating well with your doctor and other healthcare providers is one of the best ways to play an active role and educate yourself fully.
Your Goal: To Feel Like an "Expert"
Think about what you do when you're getting ready to buy a car. You probably check out consumer magazines, read test drive reports on the Web and ask people in the know what they think of the car you're interested in. When it comes time to make the deal, you feel confident. You trust yourself to ask the right questions and make good decisions.
You need to put the same level of thought and investigation-actually, more-into your health.
Make Doctor's Appointments Count
This goes for all kinds of challenges you face when you're trying to make a lot of lifestyle changes. If you're not taking all your medications, tell your doctor. Try to talk about why it's hard for you to comply with your regimen. If you're having trouble quitting smoking, say so. Same goes for diet, exercise, etc. The more honest you are, the better chance you have of addressing the real reasons why some things are giving you trouble.
Take notes, ask questions.
It's hard to remember every single thing your doctor says during an appointment. It makes a lot of sense to take notes. And don't be embarrassed about asking questions until you fully understand everything. Ask what your medication is doing for you. Ask why certain foods are harmful. Just keep on asking until you're satisfied.
Avoid "doorknob comments"
: As you're walking out of the doctor's office, do you ever reach the door, turn around, and say, "Oh, by the way, I also have this other problem…" Many times, this is the problem that's been worrying you the most. Make priorities for your visit, and talk about the most important thing first.
If you like, take a friend or family member to appointments with you.
Having someone else hear what's going on during the appointment can be a big help.
If you have doubts about your treatment, talk about them.
You and your doctor might not come from the same cultural or ethnic background. There may be aspects of your treatment plan that seem strange to you, things that don't seem right. Many times, voicing your doubts with your doctor is the first step towards coming to a better understanding of your treatment. Don't be shy about sharing your beliefs. It's the best way to establish good communication and trust with your doctor.
If you don't feel comfortable with your doctor, find another one.
If you've had several appointments and still don't feel comfortable with your doctor, it's time to find someone else.
Use healthcare providers as springboards to more information.
In other words, actively seek out information about your condition. And don't stop there. Ask your providers to recommend books, support groups and any other advice they have for you. The more you know, the better equipped you are to be an active member of your healthcare team.
S. Holt. The Natural Way to a Healthy Heart. M. Evans and Company, Inc., New York, New York, 10017, 1999; J. Hall, D. Roter. Doctors Talking with Patients/Patients Talking with Doctors. Greenwood Publishing, 1995.