Talking to Your Doctor

Seeing a doctor? Be prepared!

Whether it is your initial consultation, a follow-up appointment or a regular health-check, there are a few things you can do to make sure you are prepared in advance to make the most of your time with your doctor.

Top tip: making notes about issues you want to discuss with your doctor and preparing questions to ask can be very effective in making sure the visit is as beneficial as possible.

If you are visiting a doctor because of concerns about your vascular health, here are some example questions that you may find useful:

  • Am I at risk of developing a vascular disease?
  • What can I do to reduce my risk of vascular disease?
  • My family has a history of heart disease which, I understand, makes me genetically inclined to develop a similar condition. Am I likely to still develop such a condition?
  • Could you give me advice as to how to lose weight?
  • Is there anything I can do to reduce my blood pressure to help prevent vascular disease?
  • How can I reduce my cholesterol to help prevent vascular disease?
  • What resources and support are available to help me stop smoking?
  • I often feel short of breath. Could this be a sign that I have CAD?
  • I have heart disease and am experiencing cramping in my limbs. Are these likely to be linked?

 

Glossary of Key Terms

Acute limb ischaemia

A sudden lack of blood flow to the limbs that may cause the tissue to die unless promptly treated.1

Amputation

The surgical removal of a body part, such as an arm or a leg.2

Angina

Angina is a type of chest pain caused by reduced blood flow to the heart.3,4

Angioplasty

An angioplasty is a surgery used to treat CAD and PAD, in which a surgeon inserts a tube into the artery and inflates a balloon to compress the plaque against the artery walls. An angioplasty creates more space for the blood to flow through the arteries. It is common for stents to be placed in the artery after the procedure to support the walls of the artery and help prevent them from re-narrowing. When stents are used, the process is usually referred to as percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI).5

Arteries

Blood vessels that transport oxygenated blood, or blood rich with oxygen, away from the heart to the organs and tissues.6

Atherosclerosis

A disease in which plaque builds up within the arteries, causing them to become narrow and harden, thereby restricting blood flow. Atherosclerosis causes vascular diseases including CAD and PAD.7

Atherothrombosis

Occurs when the plaque within the arteries ruptures and a blood clot forms. If left untreated, a blood clot can completely restrict the blood flow, also restricting the oxygen supply.8

Blood clot

A natural reaction during injury, in which blood clumps together to prevent the body from losing too much blood.9 If this takes place in the arteries (a process called arterial thrombosis), a blood clot can restrict blood flow, and in some cases can lead to a heart attack or stroke.9,10

Bypass

A surgery used to treat CAD and PAD, for which a surgeon creates a graft to redirect the blood away from the blocked vessel.11,12

Cholesterol

A fatty substance carried by the blood that assists with the normal functioning of the body. There are two main types of cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL). HDL is responsible for carrying the cholesterol away from the cells and to the liver, whereas a high LDL level leads to a build up of cholesterol in the arteries.13

Claudication

A symptom of PAD defined by severe cramping pain in the limbs due to restricted blood flow. This is most common in the legs, but can also affect the arms.14

Critical limb ischaemia

Severely restricted blood circulation to the limb. This can lead to pain, ulcers and gangrene and, if left untreated, can lead to amputation.15

Gangrene

A condition where loss of blood supply causes tissue to die.16 This is a complication of critical limb ischaemia and can, if left untreated, lead to amputation.16

 Myocardial infarction

A heart attack, caused by a sudden decrease in blood flow to the heart. In the context of vascular disease, a myocardial infarction (often abbreviated to MI) is caused by a blockage in the coronary arteries due to plaque build-up. If this plaque ruptures, a blood clot can form, restricting blood flow within the artery and depriving the heart of vital oxygen, subsequently triggering a heart attack.17

Plaque

A substance that builds up within the arteries, made up of fat, cholesterol and calcium. It causes the arteries to harden and narrow, thereby restricting blood flow.18

Polyvascular disease

The presence of more than one affected vascular bed, that is, any combination of the following: CAD, PAD and cerebrovascular disease (CVD).19

 Stroke

Stroke is an example of a serious vascular event that could occur if plaque build-up blocks blood flow to the brain.7 There are three  types of stroke, ischaemic stroke,  haemorrhagic stroke and transient ischaemic attack (TIA).20 Ischaemic stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is restricted, and prevents the brain getting vital oxygen. The brain cells then die, which triggers a stroke. Haemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel leaks and bleeds within the brain, causing damage or killing brain tissue. Haemorrhagic strokes are less common than ischaemic strokes, accounting for only 13%  of stroke events.21 However, despite being less common, haemorrhagic strokes account for around 40% of stroke-related deaths worldwide.22 The third type of stroke is transient ischaemic attack (TIA), also known as a ministroke. This type of stroke is caused by a temporary blockage or decreased blood flow to the brain.20

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