Questions to ask Your Doctor

  • Am I at risk for a heart attack?
  • What heart attack warning signs should I watch for?
  • Do I need any tests?
  • What diet and lifestyle changes will improve my heart health?

Quick Questions

Q: What is Heart Failure, does it mean my heart is not working anymore?
A: Heart failure is a misleading and scary term. It does not mean the heart is about to stop working. Symptoms or heart failure includes swelling in your feet, face or abdomen; feeling tired; short of breath; coughing; and getting chest pain. Heart failure can happen in two ways, systolic (sis TAL ik) and diastolic (die a STAL ik) . Systolic heart failure simply means that your heart muscle is weaker than normal. The heart muscle cannot contract or pump blood as well. The amount of blood that pumps out of the heart with each beat is called the ejection fraction or (EF) and normal is 50 to 55%. With systolic heart failure the ejection fraction is below 50%. Diastolic dysfunction is present when the lower chambers of your heart or ventricles become stiff. The stiff muscle cannot relax between contractions, which keeps the bottom chambers of the heart from filling with enough blood. Medications such as beta blockers, ace inhibitors, and diuretics are used to treat heart failure. Some patients may qualify for special pacemakers and defibrillators.

Q: Why do I need to be on a statin if my cholesterol numbers are good?
A: Cholesterol medications called statins such as Lipitor, Zocor, Crestor, Vytorin, lowers LDL cholesterol by interfering with cholesterol production. These drugs have also been shown to stabilize plaque and help prevent the progression of blockages, thus reducing the risk of stroke and heart attack. Therefore, if you have Coronary Artery Disease, Peripheral Vascular Disease, or Diabetes it is important to be on these medications even if the “numbers” are satisfactory

Q: What is a “silent” heart attack?
A: A “silent” heart attack, which most often affect the elderly, women, and those with diabetes, tend to go unrecognized because they cause subtle pain or no pain. However, they can still damage the heart muscle.

Q: Do heart attacks affect both men and women?
A: Both men and women are equally at risk for heart disease. Heart disease is the number one killer of women over the age of 40.

Q: Do heart attacks typically occur suddenly, without warning?
A: No. Most heart attacks begin with mild discomfort; half of all people who are having a heart attack delay more than two hours before seeking attention.

Heart Attack Warning Signs
Men (common just before or during)

  • Pain in your chest
  • Shortness of breath
  • Cold sweat
  • Nausea or lightheadedness
  • Discomfort in the arms, back, neck, jaw, or stomach

Women (common just before or during) In addition to the symptoms that men experience:

  • Unusual fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Anxiety
  • Indigestion