July 11, 2022

Questions to ask your health-care provider about heart failure

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This helpful list of heart failure questions can help guide important medical conversations.

If you or a family member has heart failure, you may have questions: What is heart failure? What can I expect from treatment? What can I do to manage the condition? What kind of care will I need?

It is important to have an honest talk with your health-care provider about these concerns. It might help to bring this list of heart failure exam questions to your medical appointment. Answers to these questions can help you understand your condition, how you can help manage heart failure, and the right choice of treatment for you. 

Heart failure questions to ask your doctor

  • What is heart failure and why do I have it?
  • What is my ejection fraction?  (This number refers to the strength of your heart’s pumping function.)
  • Will my condition get worse?
  • What are the treatment options?
  • Will the treatment have side effects?
  • Why do I need this medicine?
  • Will my insurance cover the treatment?
  • How much will the treatment help me?
  • Will I be able to take care of myself in the weeks and months ahead?
  • What can I do to manage my condition?
  • Which activities can I do, and which should I avoid?
  • What are the signs that my condition is getting worse?
  • What should I do if I miss a dose of my medicine? 
  • Do I need to make changes to my diet?
  • When should I call for immediate medical attention? 

Bring a notebook to write down the answers. Some people ask to record the visit to listen to comments again later. Do not be embarrassed to ask your provider to slow down or repeat something, or to ask for a second opinion. It is important that you clearly understand your heart failure diagnosis and treatment plan.

Be open with your medical team

Your provider will need some information from you. Talk about your symptoms and how you are feeling. It is important to talk about any changes or problems you have. Be frank about whether you have been able to follow the diet, exercise and follow other advice you have been given. Your care team needs to know where you are having trouble to be able to help. Being honest may help you avoid a hospital visit. 

The care team also needs to know what medicines you take, including those bought over the counter – including nutritional supplements, such as vitamins. Bring a list with you. If you are seeing more than one health care provider, be sure that each one knows all the medicines prescribed for you.

Ask for a helping hand

Living with heart failure can be a challenge. If it is hard traveling to and from medical appointments, ask a friend or family member to go with you. That person may be able to take notes, help you remember questions you want to ask and learn how to help you at home. 

Your provider may give you a referral to see a registered dietitian if you are having trouble sticking to your diet. A dietitian will work with you to make meal plans, shopping lists and recipes. Your provider can also help you build an exercise plan built around your abilities. 

There are active heart failure support groups in many communities or online. These groups can provide advice and support for people with this diagnosis. Heart failure teams also work alongside counselors, social workers and mental health specialists to provide resources.

What you can do

There is a lot you can do at home to manage your own health. Your provider may ask you to weigh yourself regularly. You will need to keep a log of your weight, blood pressure and symptoms. You can track your blood pressure with a digital monitor. Take your medicines as prescribed. If you have trouble doing so, talk about it with your provider to find solutions. Never stop taking your medicines before talking first with your medical team. 

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Vanderbilt University Medical Center has one of the top heart failure programs in the nation with the expertise to care for all stages and causes of heart failure, from the most basic to the most complex. Innovative treatments offer hope when you need it most.

Download our treatment guide