Heart health questions women should ask their doctor

UCI Health wants women to be their own advocates

February 14, 2014

February is heart awareness month and experts at UCI Health encourage women to be their own health champions and be proactive in communicating with their medical care teams, and that includes asking questions about their heart health.

For patients, preparing a list of questions before an appointment is a good start as doctors are busy and office appointments are typically brief. 

“A patient should not wait for her doctor to bring up things that are weighing on her mind nor should she think that she is wasting her doctor’s time,” says Dr. Shaista Malik, a UCI Health cardiologist.  “Heart disease affects men and women quite differently and it’s important for women to know what is unique to their heart health.” 

Dr. Malik encourages women to ask the following questions:

  • What is my risk of heart disease based on my family history and my risk factors?
  • What should I be doing to prevent heart disease?
  • Do I need tests to make sure that my symptoms (such as chest pain, shortness of breath, jaw pain, nausea or fatigue) are not due to heart disease?
  • If I want to start a family, what should I know about my heart health and how will that affect my pregnancy?
  • If you’re a smoker, ask about programs that can help you quit.

“A woman’s relationship with her primary care physician is one of the most important ones she’ll have in her life,” says Dr. Malik.  “A PCP is the primary coordinator of medical care and serves as an advocate for overall health and wellness.  Knowing what to ask can help to ensure all medical issues and concerns are being addressed.”   

Primary care physicians also provide referrals to patients when the level of care needed exceeds the scope of their general practice. 

“It’s also important for women to know the breadth of medical resources available to her in addition to what her PCP provides,” said Dr. Malik.  “There is so much on-going research at teaching hospitals and it can be overwhelming for PCPs to keep up-to-date on all of the latest findings.  Physicians at research institutions can provide the latest diagnostic testing and cutting-edge treatments for women who may need or want more specialized care.”  

UCI Health experts encourage patients to take a proactive role in their medical care and be sure to ask their PCPs about the latest trends in research for health-related topics that affect them.

Dr. Malik, assistant professor of cardiology, is board certified in Internal Medicine and Cardiovascular Disease. She is medical director of UCI Health’s Women’s Heart Program and  Preventive Cardiology Program, a multidisciplinary team of cardiologists, exercise physiologists, registered dietitians, and researchers specializing in improving a patient’s cardiovascular health. 

UCI Health comprises the clinical, medical education and research enterprises of the University of California, Irvine. Patients can access UCI Health at physician offices throughout Orange County and at its main campus, UC Irvine Medical Center in Orange, Calif., a 412-bed acute care hospital that provides tertiary and quaternary care, ambulatory and specialty medical clinics, behavioral health and rehabilitation. U.S. News & World Report has listed it among America’s Best Hospitals for 13 consecutive years. UC Irvine Medical Center features Orange County’s only National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center, high-risk perinatal/neonatal program, Level I trauma center and Level II pediatric trauma center, and is the primary teaching hospital for UC Irvine School of Medicine. UCI Health serves a region of more than 3 million people in Orange County, western Riverside County and southeast Los Angeles County. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.