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Talking to Your Doctor About Congestive Heart Failure (CHF)
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Talking to Your Doctor About Congestive Heart Failure (CHF)

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You have a unique medical history. Therefore, it is essential to talk with your doctor about your personal risk factors and/or experience with congestive heart failure (CHF). By talking openly and regularly with your doctor, you can take an active role in your care.

General Tips for Gathering Information

Here are some tips that will make it easier for you to talk to your doctor:

  • Bring someone else with you. It helps to have another person hear what is said and think of questions to ask.
  • Write out your questions ahead of time, so you don't forget them.
  • Write down the answers you get, and make sure you understand what you are hearing. Ask for clarification, if necessary.
  • Don't be afraid to ask your questions or ask where you can find more information about what you are discussing. You have a right to know.

Specific Questions to Ask Your Doctor

The following are some suggested questions to discuss with your doctor, recommended by the American Heart Association:

About Congestive Heart Failure:

  • What is my diagnosis?
  • Is the heart failure mild, moderate, or severe?

About Your Risk of Developing Congestive Heart Failure

  • Am I or is anyone in my family at risk for developing CHF?
  • What can I do to prevent CHF?

About Treatment Options

  • What are the treatment options for my condition?
  • What side effects are caused by this treatment?
  • What is likely to happen without treatment?
  • Are there any alternative or complementary therapies that will help me?

About Medication

  • What medications are available to me?
    • Are there any medications, in particular, that would be of benefit to me?
    • What are the side effects of these medications?
    • What should be done if these side effects occur?
    • Will these medications interact with other medications, over-the-counter products, or dietary or herbal supplements that I am already taking?
  • What is the name of the medicine? Is this the brand or generic name? Does it matter which one is used?
  • What is the medicine supposed to do?
  • How and when should it be taken—and for how long?
  • What foods, drinks, and other medicines should be avoided while taking this medicine?
  • Is any written information available about the medicine?
  • A certain medication is causing side effects that are difficult to deal with. Is there some way to minimize those side effects? Is there another equally good medication available?

About Lifestyle Changes

  • What are some specific ways that daily life will change?
  • Can I still work, play golf, have sex, do the laundry, (fill in whatever activity you're wondering about)?
  • What strategies have other patients found useful for motivating themselves to:
    • Eat better?
    • Exercise?
    • Stop smoking?

About Outlook

  • What should we expect within the next few weeks, months, and years?
  • Can you recommend a support group?
  • What is the likely progression of the condition?
  • What are the most important things we can do to manage this condition?

References:

American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=1200000 .

Heart Failure Online website. Available at: http://www.heartfailure.org .

Konstam M, Dracup K, Baker D, et al. Heart failure: evaluation and care of patients with left ventricular systolic dysfunction. Clinical practice guideline No. 11. AHCPR publication No. 94-0612. Rockville MD: Agency for Health Care Policy and Research; 1994.

Mayo Clinic Heart Center website. Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/heart-disease/HB00057 . Accessed January 30, 2007



Last reviewed June 2008 by Michael J. Fucci, DO

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.


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