Working with health care professionals to keep your heart healthy
There are lots of heart-healthy steps you can take on your own — but having trusted health care professionals by your side can be a big help. You may already have a primary care doctor who you see for regular care. You may also have specialists, like a diabetes educator or a cardiologist, on your health care team.
How can health care professionals support my heart-health journey?
Ask about your risk for heart attack and stroke
Your risk for heart disease depends on many things — like your age, overall health, and family health history. Your doctor can talk to you about your personal risk factors and support you in making heart-healthy changes — like getting active, eating healthy, and quitting smoking.
Get help managing your blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar
Getting and keeping your blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar numbers in a healthy range is key to preventing heart disease and stroke. Your doctor can help keep track of those numbers and work with you to keep them in a healthy range.
Ask about medicines
Healthy habits like eating well and being active go a long way toward better heart health. But you may also need medicines to be part of your heart-health treatment plan. Learn more about managing medicines.
How do I handle working with more than one health care professional?
Find the primary care doctor that works for you
Having multiple professionals on your care team can come with challenges, like communication breakdowns and conflicting advice. That’s why it’s so important to have a primary care doctor you trust who can help manage your care. Keep in mind that nurse practitioners and physician assistants can also provide primary care. If you’re looking for a doctor, ask a friend or family member for a recommendation, get a referral from a specialist you’re working with, or ask your insurance company for a list of in-network doctors. You can also seek primary care at a local community health center.
Work with your primary care doctor to coordinate your care
Once you’ve found the primary care doctor that works best for you, ask if they can help coordinate your care. Let your doctor know about any tests, medicines, or treatments you discussed with other members of your health care team. This can help you avoid getting (and paying for!) tests you’ve already gotten or taking medicines that don’t work well with your other treatments. You can also ask any specialists you’re seeing to update your primary care doctor about any test results or treatments they prescribe.
Make a list of your health care team
Put together a list with each of your doctors’ names, their contact info, and their role on your health care team. Give each team member a copy.
Call out conflicting advice
If you’re hearing different things from different doctors, bring it up. Ask your doctors to coordinate with each other — remember, they’re all members of your health care team and it’s their job to work with you to provide the best possible care.
Ask lots of questions
Before starting a new medicine or making any other changes to your treatment plan, make sure that you ask all your questions — and that you feel good about your decision. Keep in mind that you are the most important member of your health care team! Your pharmacist can also answer questions about your medicines when you’re picking them up — whether it’s a new prescription or a refill.
How do I manage my medicines?
Follow your treatment plan
Always be sure to take your medicines exactly as your doctor tells you to. If you don’t, they may not work like they’re supposed to.
Make sure to talk with your doctor or pharmacist before starting any new medicines, including over-the-counter medicines and herbal supplements. They may affect other health conditions you have or treatments that you’re getting.
Make medicines part of your routine
Setting a daily routine for taking your medicines can help you remember to take them and stay on track. A weekly pill box can also help you manage your medicines. Some pill boxes even have timer caps that beep when it’s time to take your medicines — or you can set an alarm on your phone as a reminder.
Keep a list of your medicines
Make a list with information about all your medicines — like what you take them for and the correct dose. Include any over-the-counter medicines and dietary or herbal supplements. It’s a good idea to review your list every 3 to 4 months to make sure it’s up to date — and to share a copy with your close family members or others involved in your care.
Bring your medicine list with you to all your appointments and review it with your doctor to see if you need to make any changes. Consider also sharing a copy with your pharmacist — your pharmacist can be a valuable resource in helping you manage your medicines.
Download a fillable medicine tracker to help make your list.
Tell your doctor about any concerns
It may take a while to find a treatment plan that’s right for you. Don’t hesitate to talk with your doctor if a medicine is causing side effects — or if you don’t think it’s working. There may be other options you can try.
Get help paying for medicines
If you’re having trouble paying for your medicines, talk to your pharmacist or other health care team members — they may be able to help. For example, if your current medicine isn’t covered by your health insurance plan, your doctor may be able to prescribe a similar, covered medicine you can get instead. You can also learn about programs that may lower your out-of-pocket costs.
Where can I find information about health insurance?
Get coverage through the marketplace
Find, compare, and sign up for health insurance plans on HealthCare.gov.
Learn about Medicare
If you’re age 65 or older, explore coverage options at Medicare.gov.
Find a local health center
If you don’t have insurance, find free or low-cost health care near you.
What role does my family history play in my heart health?
Tell your doctor about your family health history
If heart disease runs in your family, it may affect your own risk of heart attack or stroke. That’s why it’s important to give your doctor as much information as you can about your family health history — especially if you have one or more close relatives who had a heart attack or stroke before age 50.
Start a conversation with your family
Start by telling your close relatives — like your parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, and uncles — that you’re trying to lower your risk of heart disease. Then, ask them to share information about their health history. You can also use this online tool to help build a family health history.
Ask the right questions
Start by asking your family members about what health problems they’ve had and how old they were when these problems started. See some sample questions about family health history.