As a cardiology patient, you have a good idea of what you want from your cardiologist. You’re looking for a compassionate and informed physician who can help you make the best choices for your heart health.
But you probably haven’t thought much about what your cardiologist hopes to get from you. While doctors go above and beyond for all their patients, there are a few things that cardiologists, in particular, would love for their patients to know.
*All anecdotes in this article have been anonymized to protect the privacy of the persons to whom they belong.
Don’t Believe What You Read On The Internet
Home remedies and vitamin cures probably don’t work and may actually hurt you. Patients often try self-medicating with homemade therapies or vitamin ‘cures.’ But these remedies are not evidence-based and don’t take the place of legitimate therapy. Plus, some vitamins negatively interact with heart medications—making the medication ineffective or even dangerous.
The more information you provide, the more quickly your cardiologist can start helping you. It is good to write down your medical history with the dates and locations of any previous cardiac procedures. And bring in the bottles of any medication you’re taking1.
Comments from a heart patient: “It’s important to verify information you find online for false information can really damage your already-weakened heart.”
A Heart Healthy Lifestyle Should Be All-Encompassing
There are some vices that are easier for us to get rid of than others. For you, adding a regular exercise regimen to your life might be a breeze, but you have a little more trouble making smart dietary decisions. It’s important that you do your best to pursue a well-rounded healthy lifestyle by focusing on making meaningful adjustments in diet, exercise, and lifestyle. Many patients find lasting long-term success when they begin by making small, incremental changes rather than huge sweeping changes that are difficult to maintain over time2.
Comments from a heart patient: “Maintaining a healthy lifestyle has worked wonders for me. Your diet, daily routine, and sanitation are three very important factors when it comes to your heart’s health.”
Smoking Has To Stop
If someone’s a smoker, they gotta stop. One cardiologist Stuart Connolly says, “I feel sick when I talk to people who still smoke. It’s never too late to stop. Even quitting in your seventies improves survival. If patients want to do one thing for their health, it would be to stop smoking”3.
Comments from a heart patient: “Smoking not only harms your lungs, it can also have ever-lasting effects on your heart as well. Quitting smoking is only the first step towards a healthy lifestyle.”
Most Supplements Do Nothing For Your Heart health
Doctors who strongly recommend certain supplements are often the ones selling them in their office. For primary prevention, if you’re not eating fish two to three times a week, then fish oil is probably a good idea. Many cardiologists also recommend vitamin D because 80 percent of U.S. adults are deficient.
Comments from a heart patient: “Make sure you only take the supplements recommended by your doctor for not all of the available ones work.”
If You Or Your Spouse Isn’t Sleeping Well, Tell Your Cardiologist
Sleep apnea is a major cause of cardiac events such as heart attack, cardiac arrest, and stroke. If you suspect you have sleep apnea (snoring and feeling exhausted when you wake up are big clues), you should tell your doctor about it. And if your spouse is always nagging you for snoring, that’s an important sign too.
Comments from a heart patient: “Tell your doctor when you’re having trouble sleeping for it’s also a part of the process.”
Nutrition Plays A Critical Role In Your Heart Health
A tip for a healthy diet is to take a plate and divide it into three sections. In each section, make sure there is a different color but no white — white would be a potato, bread, rice, or pasta. Instead, replace white foods with colorful peppers, beets, green vegetables, salads, or a piece of chicken or fish. Even whole-wheat carbs should be limited. Keep the focus on color.
Comments from a heart patient: “Your diet is one of the most important factors when it comes to the health of your heart. Make sure your diet is according to what your doctor has suggested.”
Heart Disease Is The Leading Cause of Death, So Take Extra Care
In a study at NewYork-Presbyterian and Columbia, we evaluated how people perceive their size, which can relate, to a certain extent, to the way they eat and choices they make. We also asked the questions, “What is the leading cause of death among women?” and “What are the signs and symptoms of a heart attack?”
Many underestimated their body size and were not aware that heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Many also thought the leading cause of death was cancer. And since obesity is a growing national problem, one might look at friends and neighbors, who may also be overweight, and not see their own weight as abnormal. By underestimating body size, people place themselves at risk for cardiovascular events or stroke.
Comments from a heart patient: “Heart patients need to take extra care. Make sure you follow all of your doctor’s recommendations.”
Good Heart Health Doesn’t Need To Break The Bank
Studies show that taking a vitamin supplement is probably not as helpful as getting nutrients from food. For example, taking a pill for beta carotene is not as good as eating a carrot. People often go to the health food store for pills, thinking the supplements are beneficial, but it is simpler than that. Carrots from the grocery store are better and less costly. I often say to my patients, “Save your money — go buy yourself a nice pair of shoes instead”4.
Comments from a heart patient: “As long as you’re smart about it, you don’t have to worry about emptying your bank account.”
Maintaining heart health is key for living a long and enjoyable life, and your cardiologist wants to help you achieve that. It is of utmost importance that you listen to what your cardiologist has to say.
 Garripo, Gina. “10 Things Your Cardiologist Wants You to Know.” Healthgrades. 22 June, 2019.
 “3 Things Your Cardiologist Wants You To Know.” Cardiovascular Associates. 6 March, 2020.
 Gelman, Lauren, “25 Heart-Health Secrets Cardiologists Want You to Know.” Best Health Mag.
 “8 Things a Leading Cardiologist Wishes You Knew About Heart Health.” Health Matters.