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6 questions women should ask about heart health

April 20, 2017 | UC Irvine Health
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When it comes to heart health, women are different. Asking the right questions can save your life.

UC Irvine Health experts encourage women to be their own health champions and be proactive in communicating with their medical care teams, and that includes asking questions about their heart health. After all, heart disease is the No. 1 health threat facing women.

Prepare a list of questions

For patients, preparing a list of questions before an appointment is a good start as doctors are busy and office appointments are typically brief.

“A patient should not wait for her doctor to bring up things that are weighing on her mind nor should she think that she is wasting her doctor’s time,” says Dr. Shaista Malik, a UC Irvine Health cardiologist and director of the Samueli Center for Integrative Medicine.

“Heart disease affects men and women quite differently and it’s important for women to know what is unique to their heart health," she says.

You may need specialized testing to diagnose a particular type of heart disease that affects women: microvascular disease. Women and hidden heart disease ›

What to ask your doctor

Malik encourages women to ask the following questions:

  • What is my risk of heart disease based on my family history and my risk factors?
  • What should I be doing to prevent heart disease?
  • Do I need tests to make sure that my symptoms (such as chest pain, shortness of breath, jaw pain, nausea or fatigue) are not due to heart disease?
  • Are there tests that can detect early heart disease?
  • If I want to start a family, what should I know about my heart health and how will that affect my pregnancy?
  • If you’re a smoker, ask about programs that can help you quit.

“A woman’s relationship with her primary care physician is one of the most important ones she’ll have in her life,” says Malik.

“A PCP is the primary coordinator of medical care and serves as an advocate for overall health and wellness. Knowing what to ask can help to ensure all medical issues and concerns are being addressed.”

Think beyond primary care

Primary care physicians also provide referrals to patients when the level of care needed exceeds the scope of their general practice.

“It’s also important for women to know the breadth of medical resources available to her in addition to what her PCP provides,” Malik says.

“There is so much ongoing research at teaching hospitals and it can be overwhelming for PCPs to keep up-to-date on all of the latest findings. Physicians at research institutions can provide the latest diagnostic testing and cutting-edge treatments for women who may need or want more specialized care.”

Patients are encouraged to take a proactive role in their medical care and be sure to ask their PCPs about the latest trends in research for health-related topics that affect them.

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