Navigating today’s medical system can be tough on patients. The best thing to remember is that ultimately, the responsibility for your health lies with you. Your doctor can help, but you have to help yourself too.
As individuals, we have an important role to play in the journey towards health. It’s important that you actively participate in the process, listening to the experts but also listening to yourself.
It’s not uncommon for a patient to be faced with conflicting advice from different doctors (for example, one doctor might advocate surgery, another pills and another might suggest you ‘wait and see’). It’s also not uncommon for a doctor to give advice which might conflict with your own beliefs (for example, suggesting surgery before other options are explored may be something you don’t agree with).
Many of us are conditioned to just go along with the suggestions of our doctors, but it’s important that you know that as the patient, your role is an active one. You are entitled to your own opinions and beliefs; you are entitled to seek second – even third – opinions. You are entitled to search for a healthcare provider in whom you feel trust and confidence.
There are some qualities you can look for in your doctor to ensure that you are getting health care that aligns with your values. To begin with, if you are over a certain age (typically 45 for men, 55 for women) your doctor should bring up the topic of heart health and make sure you are informed. This should happen even earlier if you have significant risk factors present. If you’re doctor hasn’t raised the issue but you have your own concerns, you should bring the topic up yourself.
In your discussion with your physician, look for the following qualities:
- Do they ask about your lifestyle (such as your eating habits, your exercise habits, your stress levels etc.)?
- Do they ask about your family history?
- Do they undertake a thorough examination (including ordering any necessary blood tests)?
- Do they identify your personal risk factors and offer you advice on how to lower your risks?
- Do they offer you information about lifestyle factors as a first option before discussing other interventions (unless inappropriate)?
A doctor who addresses the above information is off to an excellent start at addressing the root causes of heart disease and ill health. You should feel free to ask questions throughout the consultation process when there are things you don’t understand or when you’d like to know alternative options.
If you don’t trust your physician, or don’t feel confident that you are being heard and valued, seek a second opinion. Ultimately, no one knows your health and your body better than you. If your gut is sending you a message that something’s not right, listen to it.
Treat the medical process as a collaborative one. Your job is to work with your doctor to produce optimum wellness and a healthy heart. Be an active participant in your wellness journey.
Rosemarie Beltz is the creator and director of the Heart Health Concierge, a prestige health coaching service offering heart-smart health advice to clients all around the world. As a cardiac perfusionist for more than 18 years (currently practicing in a hospital in Los Angeles, California) and certified health coach (graduate of the Institute of Integrative Nutrition in New York City), she is uniquely positioned to bridge the gap between the world of western medicine and holistic health. You can connect with Rosemarie at the Heart Health Concierge [www.rosemariebeltz.com], on facebook at [https://www.facebook.com/hearthealthconcierge] follow her on Twitter [https://twitter.com/marprana] and Youtube [https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-X8APOL12PU1SI0-A3ICJG].