A primary care physician, such as your family physician, an internist or an obstetrician/gynecologist, may be the first to determine that you have risk factors for cardiovascular disease and to recommend tests or treatments. This physician might recommend that you undergo tests to further assess your cardiovascular health. Depending on your health status, he or she may also recommend lifestyle changes or prescribe medications. Or your primary care doctor may refer you to a heart specialist (called a cardiologist) for further diagnosis and treatment.
If you are referred to a specialist, your primary care doctor will remain a part of your care team. Keeping your heart and arteries healthy is truly a team effort. Your care team will involve a team of medical professionals working with you on prevention, treatment and rehabilitation, if necessary. All of these professionals must communicate to be sure you are receiving the most appropriate care. Throughout this process, your primary care physician will continue to have an important role, coordinating your care with specialists and various support teams.
While your primary care physician remains constant, other care team members will vary depending on the severity of your risk factors and the types of treatments that are recommended.
Here at SecondsCount you can learn more about the various healthcare professionals who make up your cardiovascular care team.
It is very important that you, too, are an active member of the care team. In fact, you are the most important member of the team. Many patients find that actively participating in their own care ultimately enhances both their satisfaction with their health care and their outcomes.
One great way to participate in your care is to learn more about cardiovascular health, tests, prevention strategies and treatment options.
A second way to stay actively engaged in your care is to be prepared to ask informed questions of your providers. Throughout the SecondsCount website, you will find suggestions for Questions to Ask Your Doctor. Many of these are tailored to specific conditions, tests and treatments. Please feel free to print these tools and take them with you when you go to appointments. Consider starting with the list of questions developed by the SecondsCount team to help in early (or first) discussions with primary care doctors or cardiologists.