Erika Perez knows the importance of monitoring her heart health. Ten days after having her third child, a healthy baby boy, Erika was fighting for her life. She felt dizzy, fatigued. But she ignored the symptoms for days, thinking it was just indigestion. In fact, she’d suffered a massive heart attack.
“I knew the symptoms but I refused to believe it was something as serious as a heart attack,” Erika says. “The pain grew and spread to my back and my jaw and I couldn’t move my fingers. I was very scared.”
Luckily for Erika, the blood flow to her heart muscle was successfully treated, despite a 100 percent blockage in one artery. She survived and immediately began an intensive cardiac rehab process.
Erika’s experience is not a unique one. And it serves as wakeup call to all women that the right doctor, and the type of relationship you have with him or her, can be the difference between winning the battle against heart disease, or losing it.
Chemistry is key
Finding a doctor you feel comfortable with and whose communication style matches yours is one of the most important factors in choosing the right doctor to treat your heart health. Do you prefer someone who is very straightforward? Is a nurturing, friendly demeanor important to you? Is a combination of those qualities and traits closer to what you’re looking for?
Only you can answer those questions, so don’t feel obligated to go with someone because everyone claims he or she is the best – the best for one woman may not be the best for you. And don’t be shy about asking a lot of questions. Do some research, go in with a prepared list of questions, and ask for clarification or a follow-up if needed.
What’s your specialty?
You did your research and found a doctor that you can communicate openly with. But it turns out this wonderful doctor doesn’t specialize in your condition. What now? There are a few steps to take:
- Start with your primary physician. If you’ve been seeing your primary care doctor for a long time, they should have a good grasp of your medical history and can easily organize and prepare your information for a specialist to review.
- Share your preferences. Your primary care doctor likely has several qualified specialists for you to choose from. Simply share your needs and preferences and your doctor can help you weed out ones who aren’t a good fit.
- The search shouldn’t end there. Research specialists on your own. A good place to start is with the hospitals in your area, and checking out the bios of the specialists on staff.
If needed, get a second opinion
Survivors like Rekisha know the importance of being your own health advocate. Doctors dismissed her health concerns as being related to her pregnancy, assuring her that her symptoms were normal. The doctors were wrong. “See as many doctors as necessary to be sure your voice is heard,” she urges.
Stand up for yourself
Don’t be surprised if it takes a third or fourth opinion before you get the treatment you need. For Lidia Morales, it took three doctors before she received an accurate diagnosis. If it wasn’t for that extra opinion, doctors would have continued to treat the wrong problem, and Lidia may not be around today to share her story. “I could’ve easily died if I hadn’t pushed for another opinion and more tests,” says Lidia. “I always tell people that no one knows you better than you!”