News/Blog

What to Expect from Rehabilitation

Last week we covered identifying and understanding brain injuries. If you or a loved one you know has had a brain injury or are at risk for a brain injury, knowing what rehabilitation will consist of can be comforting during a stressful time. There are many physical and emotional challenges that can discourage both the patient and the caregiver.

Brain injury is a broad category that refers to any injury to the brain which impairs functioning. The injury may be mild, severe, traumatic, or caused by associated medical problems; however, the goal of rehabilitation is the same – help patients gain the most independent level of functioning possible. Whether the brain was injured during a stroke, a fall, or even an electric shock, the goal of Ernest Health is to get our patients back to a place where they can manage and hopefully flourish in daily life. Rehabilitation therapists form a team, together with the patient and family/caregiver(s), to achieve the best possible outcome.

REHABILITATION AFTER BRAIN INJURY:

Rehabilitation after a brain injury is more likely to involve several types of therapists and practitioners on our staff because of the effect that a brain injury can have on multiple parts of the body. A physical therapist would help the individual regain range of movement and strength, like in the case of a patient who has had a stroke and subsequent paralysis. An occupational therapist caring for the same patient might work with him or her on dressing, eating, and completing household chores. A speech pathologist might work with the patient on swallowing and communication. Still other practitioners such as psychologists and social workers would aid in psychological, emotional, and social assessment and care.

Just as with any type of rehabilitation, a patient’s treatment plan is highly individualized. A patient who has experienced a stroke may need different types and degrees of therapy than a person who was in a car accident. It all depends on the extent and impact of the injury. Likewise, one’s treatment may vary according to life stage, age, and daily needs. This individualization greatly benefits our patients and their families.

However, Brain Injuries are so much more than a series of physical consequences. One of the major impacts that brain injuries have on the quality of life is the way that they affect a person’s emotions and relationships. There are hardships that immediately come to mind – communication problems, mobility limitations, cognitive impairment – but there are also complex social and emotional stressors that impact well-being.

 

Knowing what to expect from brain injuries can be especially useful for the caregiver. Being a caregiver requires constant encouraging and optimism, but that can be wearying. Next week we cover brain injury rehabilitation for the caregiver.

For more information on brain injury, go to www.biausa.gov.

 

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Understanding Brain Injuries

Brain injury is unpredictable in its consequences. Brain injury affects who we are, the way we think, act and feel. It can change everything about us in a matter of seconds. The most important things to remember include:

  • A person with a brain injury is a person first.
  • No two brain injuries are exactly the same.
  • The effects of a brain injury are complex and vary greatly from person to person.
  • The effects of a brain injury depend on such factors as cause, location, and severity.

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

A TBI is caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head or a penetrating head injury that disrupts the normal function of the brain. Not all blows or jolts to the head result in a TBI. The severity of a TBI may range from “mild,” i.e., a brief change in mental status or consciousness to “severe,” i.e., an extended period of unconsciousness or amnesia after the injury.

2.4 million people sustain a traumatic brain injury (TBI) each year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Injury Prevention, the leading causes of TBI are:

  • Falls (35.2%)
  • Motor vehicle-traffic crashes (17.3%)
  • Struck by/against events (16.5%)
  • Assaults (10%)

Acquired Brain Injury

An acquired brain injury is an injury to the brain, which is not hereditary, congenital, degenerative, or induced by birth trauma. An acquired brain injury is an injury to the brain that has occurred after birth.

There is sometimes confusion about what is considered an acquired brain injury. By definition, any traumatic brain injury (e.g., from a motor vehicle accident, or assault) could be considered an acquired brain injury. In the field of brain injury, acquired brain injuries are typically considered any injury that is nontraumatic. Examples of acquired brain injury include stroke, near drowning, lack of oxygen to the brain, tumor, neurotoxins, electric shock or lightening strike.

An Injured Brain

When a brain injury occurs, the functions of the neurons, nerve tracts, or sections of the brain can be affected. If the neurons and nerve tracts are affected, they can be unable or have difficulty carrying the messages that tell the brain what to do. This can change the way a person thinks, acts, feels, and moves the body. Brain injury can also change the complex internal functions of the body, such as regulating body temperature; blood pressure; bowel and bladder control. These changes can be temporary or permanent. They may cause impairment or a complete inability to perform a function.

www.biausa.org

 

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Eating Out and Staying Healthy

There are many facets to living a healthy lifestyle. Regular exercise and a healthy diet are the obvious ones. A healthy diet is easiest when you do the cooking yourself. You can control what goes into the dish which controls the calories and nutrition of the whole meal.

But sometimes, a person just needs a break from their daily routine. A chance to recharge and regroup before starting all over again the next day. The solution can be as simple as a meal outside the house.

We know that when you’re watching what you eat, staying healthy when eating out can cause stress or guilt which are not relaxing feelings. Luckily, more restaurants are evolving their menus to fit the demand for healthier, calorie friendly options. We’ve got a satisfying selection of restaurants in the Lafayette area that are offering healthier menu options:

RESTAURANTS WITH HEALTHY OPTIONS

These restaurants provide a simple way to indulge without derailing your weight loss and fitness goals. They are also a great way to beat the heat of the stove without all the guilt.

WHEN THERE’S NO LIGHT MENU

What about those times, though, when a healthy menu isn’t available? It can be pretty easy to give yourself a free pass for the night and feel bad about it later. You can’t always control where you eat, either. We’ve got some tips you can use to achieve satisfaction and avoid over-indulgence:

  • Choose water or unsweetened tea to go with your meal. Allow your food to provide your calories for you, rather than a sugary drink.
  • Keep the dressing on the side. By starting your meal with a serving of vegetables, you’ll satisfy your body’s needs for nutrients and set the stage for a healthier meal. Putting the dressing on the side allows you to use the amount you need, rather than the amount you’re given.
  • Order the “small” or “half” portion. Many restaurants offer a “half size” of their entrees, which will help you indulge without overeating.
  • Pack leftovers right away. Ask for a to-go box as soon as your food is delivered. Immediately packing half of your meal removes the excess food from your vision and ensures a delicious meal for tomorrow.
  • Share an entrée and appetizer. Appetizers, unfortunately, often lead to overeating. Many people end up eating enough for a meal before their entrees even reach the table. If you must have those bacon-wrapped shrimp, try sharing them with your dining partner. You could also choose to split your entrée, which would result in a satisfying meal that doesn’t hurt your wallet.

Here at Lafayette Regional Rehabilitation Hospital, we love being able to share with our patients the healthy lifestyle options Las Cruces has to offer. If you have more tips or another favorite restaurant that offers light options, we’d be thrilled to hear from you.

Sources:

http://www.choosemyplate.gov/healthy-eating-tips/tips-for-eating-out.html

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Online Information You Can Trust

If you know how to use the Internet, chances are you’ve done a random search for health information. You’ve searched “cardiac rehabilitation” or “stroke outcomes” or “spinal injury” and you were met with thousands of results that ranged from logical to terrifying and everything in between. But how do you know what information is correct? What sites should you trust? While talking with your physician is always the best source of information, doing your own research can give you a good foundation for understanding basic medical terms and processes as well as helping to form a language for asking questions.

When looking for health information, you should look to websites that present the same researched, peer-reviewed, and up-to-date information that your physicians are getting. These websites take scholarly results, like your physicians read in medical journals and hear at conferences, and make them accessible to the public. For this type of reliable information we suggest turning to one of these websites:

  • The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) – Most people associate the CDC with infectious diseases, but their research and website covers much more than the flu and Ebola. Their site has valuable information on our nation’s most pervasive conditions – heart disease, cancer, diabetes — as well as just about any other condition you might search for. The website also contains information on healthy living, traveler health, emergency preparedness, and much more.
  • The National Institutes of Health (NIH) – The National Institutes of Health is a clearinghouse for up-to-date health research and information. What’s presented on their website (and through their branch institutes’ sites) is reader-friendly, cutting edge health news. The NIH funds medical research across the country and is a top-tier source for reliable health information.
  • National Associations, such as American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, and American Stroke Association, just to name a few. These sites not only present helpful, practical information but they also have stories of success and encouragement.
  • But what if you still have the urge to type things into a search engine and see what comes up?
  • The National Institute on Aging , a branch of the NIH, gives this helpful checklist to help you determine if the health information you are reading can be trusted.

A QUICK CHECKLIST

  1. Can you easily see who sponsors the website?
  2. Is the sponsor a Federal agency or a medical school, or is it related to one of these?
  3. Can you find the mission or goal of the sponsor of the website?
  4. Can you see who works for the agency or organization and who is the author? Is there contact information?
  5. Can you tell when the information was written?
  6. Is your privacy protected?
  7. Does the website make claims that seem too good to be true? Are quick, miraculous cures promised?

The most important advice that we can give you regarding online health information is this: If you are experiencing troubling health symptoms, always see a physician. And certainly, if it seems like an emergency, as in the case of a stroke, heart attack, fall, etc., call 911. Online health information can help us understand our diagnosis or that of a loved one, but it takes a health professional to diagnosis and treat disease or injury.

Resources
https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/publication/online-health-information

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Starting a Health Journal

 

There is an importance of compiling a medical history, and while a record of your medical history is essential to your doctor-patient relationship, there are even more ways to improve on it.

One of those ways is by keeping a health journal, which is a very detailed record of your daily activities, diet, medications, and feelings.

Reasons to keep a health journal:

A health journal can be a great way to keep track of the general state of your body, the effectiveness of your current lifestyle, and weight loss progress. The ability to look back on your previous activities and food consumption provides an accurate and expansive window through which you can assess your habits, and make decisions based off of the information you’ve collected.

Many people with chronic pain or concerning symptoms rely on a health journal to stay on top of their medical issues and improve communication with their physicians. Cross-referencing flare-ups and symptomatic occurrences with activities and foods can shed light on triggers.

What to record in your health journal:

Sleep: How did you sleep the night before? How long did you sleep? What time did you go to bed, and what did you do before you fell asleep?

Medications: If you take any medications, vitamins, or supplements, record what they are and when you take them.
Physical Activity: Any exercise or out-of-the-ordinary strenuous activity can have a significant impact on your health, and should definitely be included.

Symptoms: Any physical symptoms you experience should be recorded in detail. What time you experience them and the level of severity and length should be noted.

Food/Drink: Record anything you consume throughout the day, and be as detailed as possible. What did you eat, and how much? Where did you eat? Who prepared the food?

Emotions: Health is about more than simply the physical aspects. Being aware of your mood and recording any drastic changes is essential to health tracking.

 Helpful hints/how to get started:

Talk to your doctor. Even if you are starting a journal simply for general health observation, it can be very helpful to ask your doctor what to include. Based on your medical history, he or she might have specific concerns or insight that will aid in accuracy and effectiveness.

Find a journal that works for you. The options for a health journal are endless. Even something as simple as a one subject notebook with each day’s date at the top of the page can work if that’s a format that you favor. There are also options for printable journal pages, and even apps that keep all of your information on your smart device.

Keep your journal in an easily-accessible place. Whether it’s your kitchen, purse, or bathroom, keep your health journal in a place that you frequently visit or use. The kitchen is usually ideal, because foods, beverages, and medicines are often found there. Recording what you eat is much easier when the diary is close to the refrigerator.

Be honest. Recording false or altered information, for whatever reason, will only deter your efforts as you try to assess your health. Remember that your doctor is on your side, and that open communication is essential to the doctor/patient relationship.

We hope you’ll find these tips useful in enhancing your health care experience. We deeply value honesty between our patients and team members, and a health journal can be an incredible tool in that line of communication.

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There’s an App for That

February is American Heart Month. It’s a great time to make strides in taking better care of your body and your health. But, while we all know we should take better care of ourselves, it’s actually easier said than done. Find ways to motivate and challenge ourselves and track our progress can be truly helpful.

Now, this very motivation and accountability is available—literally–at your fingertips. With the increase in smart phones has come an increase in apps (applications) to meet every need you could imagine. Health and wellness is no exception.

We’re here to share a list of our favorite apps to help you stay healthy. Most are free or cost less than $5 to download.

c8a0a1732d32c3f08d571880c75a1473fad84013Daily Burn

Description: Of all the apps, this one does the best job of combining exercise and diet. Not only are you able to log your daily meals and snacks, you can also scan barcodes of food items to find full nutritional value. This app also creates sample workout plans for a variety of levels.
Cost: Free
Learn more hereMyFitnessPal_Logo

My Fitness Pal

Description: Track calories in and calories out with My Fitness Pal. You can track each item of your meals and snacks as well as the calories burned from your daily exercise. If what you’re looking for is accountability to help you stay on track, this is a great app for you!
Cost: Free
Learn more here

0x0ss-85FitJourney

Description: FitJourney helps you track your weight loss by photographs. It keeps track of your weight, what you’ve eaten (with photographs as well), and can even give a decent estimate of your BMI. The visual component is powerful in helping you in your journey to lose weight, but the one big downside to this app is that it doesn’t offer much guidance, just accountability. For the self-motivated, visual person, it’s a great fit!
Cost: Free
Learn more hereunnamed

Nike Training Club

Description: The Nike Training Club app actually works like a personal trainer, containing a variety of workouts that include strength and cross training, cardio, and yoga. With videos to help you see what each move should look like, you’re never in the dark with any of your workouts. The one negative to this app is that if you are a beginner, it might be best to wait a few weeks after you’ve begun exercising to try it, or you may have to modify some of the workouts to fit your needs.
Cost:  Free
Learn more hereicon175x175

Fitness Builder

Description:  FitnessBuilder contains the largest library of exercise images & videos (over 7,000) produced with excellent form by our exercise physiologist, physical therapy and orthopedist team. It features the most challenging workouts across all disciplines (over 900), access to a live personal trainer and the most complete set of workout building & performing tools, fitness calculators, tracking, scheduling and progress graphing features –on this app and syncing to the web. If you are a beginner, this might not be the app for you. However, if you have a solid working out experience, you will definitely benefit from this one!
Cost:  This app is free for one month. After that trial period, the Plus version costs $7. It’s the most expensive version, but definitely worth it.
Learn more hereLoseItIconLarge

Lose It!

Description: This app is another great option to track your calories consumed and burned. Another great feature is that it allows you to set goals of what you would like to consume for proteins, fats, carbs, etc. It also tracks your progress and allows you to connect with friends to receive accountability and encouragement.
Cost: Free
Learn more heresporty_gavsus

Fooducate

Description:  Lose weight, track your progress, and eat REAL food. This is one of the only apps that looks beyond the calorie and helps you eat healthy and tasty. Scan a product barcode to see what’s really in your food. Fooducate will also show you healthier alternatives. The one thing some may not love about this app is that real food substitutes often require cooking from scratch. If you are pressed for time, it can can be difficult to cook from scratch. However, we think that cooking from scratch can be fun and gets faster with time!
Cost:  Free, or “Plus” version available for $3.99
Learn more hereunnamed 9.58.52 AM

My Diet Coach

Description:  (Note: this app is only available for women) My Diet Coach helps keep you motivated and committed to lose weight fast. It will motivate you, help keep you on track, resist food cravings, temptations, emotional eating, exercise laziness and other challenges by motivational arguments and guidelines, helpful and necessary reminders, notifications with your goal, and motivational photos and weight chart.
Cost: Free, an upgraded version is available for $0.99
Learn more hereyaFl1DAS

Couch to 5K

Description: If one of your goals is to run a 5K, this is the app for you. The popular Couch to 5K program is a great way to help you exercise more and meet a specific goal at the end of your time.
Cost: Free
Learn more heremzl.hdtbpfba

Gympact

Description: This app is the most unique, and is also a fairly new app. The idea behind it is really great, but we don’t know a lot about how well it works. Each week you set your exercise and healthy eating goals each week and put a monetary value with each goal (working out a certain number of times each week, eating fruits or vegetables with every meal, etc). You snap photos of each meal and have them verified by other members, and check in to the gym, or track workouts via GPS and accelerometer. As you meet your goals, you will receive weekly notifications of your earnings. Missing a goal will cost, however!
Cost: Free
Learn more here 

With such a wide range of apps available to meet every kind of fitness goal and plan, it’s easier than ever to live healthy. Which apps are your favorite? We would love for you to share them in the comments below!
Note: as always, before you begin any exercise routine, it is important to consult with your doctor and get the best insight into what kind of exercise and what level is best for you. These apps are merely suggestions, and should be used until you have spoken with your doctor more.

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Take Part in Your Healthcare

It’s normal to have questions and anxieties when facing any kind of health issue, whether it’s an illness, injury, surgery, recovery, etc. Every patient wants to receive the best care possible, but did you know that patients play a big role in the care that they receive? Inherent in any medical care is relationships — relationships between the patient and practitioners (physicians, therapists, nurses, etc.). When patients come prepared with the best knowledge of their symptoms, medical history, and current circumstances, the practitioners have a better understanding of their patients and can offer the best treatment plan.

So what does it mean to “come prepared”?

PARTICIPATING IN YOUR HEALTHCARE: 1. MAKE A LIST

Time with practitioners is often limited, so by making a list of things you’d like to address you will make the most of that limited time. What symptom(s) is worrying you the most? Try to pinpoint when it started and anything that makes it better or worse. Avoid waiting until the practitioner is leaving the room to bring up another symptom or concern. Undivided attention is important in patient/practitioner communication.

PARTICIPATING IN YOUR HEALTHCARE: 2. COMMUNICATE YOUR CONCERNS AND DESIRES

Patients will often hesitate to discuss financial or family concerns to practitioners. Health issues can be scary and it’s not easy to talk about them, even with your own doctors. Practitioners understand that medical problems and treatment are both financially and emotionally taxing. Don’t be afraid to communicate those concerns! Are you worried about how you will pay for your healthcare and prescriptions? There may be programs to help you. If your practitioner doesn’t immediately know the answer he/she will direct you to a staff member who can help. Does your family need help coping with the stress of your illness or recovery? Support groups and/or counseling can do that. Let your practitioners know you need it!

PARTICIPATING IN YOUR HEALTHCARE: 3. ASK QUESTIONS

Don’t hesitate to ask, “What does that mean?” if a physician says something that goes over your head. If you don’t ask, the practitioner will assume you understand all that is being said. Ask about surgery risks, expected outcomes, prescribed medications and therapies. Tell your physician, therapist, nurse, etc. what you hear them saying. Make sure you’re all on the same page before anyone leaves the room. You might even think of questions in the middle of the grocery store or while watching TV — write them down and ask them at your next appointment.

Remember, you are an active participant in your own healthcare. You are an expert on your body, your circumstances, your life. Your doctors are experts at what they do but they need your expertise on YOU in order to provide the best healthcare.

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Winter Care Tips for Seniors

The winter season presents specific risks and challenges that can be exaggerated for older adults. We value the safety of our patients while they are with us and certainly once they go home. Because of this we believe that it’s important to be prepared for the risks that winter weather can bring. Here are seven safety tips to help mitigate those risks.
  1. Keep warm. Older adults are at a greater risk of developing hypothermia — a dangerous drop in body temperature — during cold weather. Aging lowers one’s ability to withstand longer periods of cold, even from just sitting in a colder than normal room. Certain conditions and medications can also affect a person’s ability to sense cold, making them especially vulnerable. Because of this, older people should keep indoor temps above 65 degrees and look for the warning signs of hypothermia – shivering, cold and pale or ashy skin, abnormal fatigue, sudden confusion, and/or slowed breathing and heart rate. If you notice these symptoms call 911 immediately.
  2. Avoid falls. While falls are a constant concern regardless of weather, seniors need to be especially vigilant in avoiding falls during the winter. Ice, snow, and mobility impeded by cold temperatures can wreak havoc on a normally safe environment. Given the particularly dangerous nature of falls in older adults, it is crucial for individuals and their loved ones to keep steps and walks clear of snow, ice, and other potential fall hazards. Be especially cautious when using canes, walkers, crutches, etc. on snow and ice.
  3. Watch for wintertime depression. It’s not uncommon for older adults to alter their social engagements during the winter months because of the cold and inclement weather. While this seems like a good idea in terms of limiting exposure to winter illnesses and avoiding fall risks, it can actually have a negative impact on one’s mental and emotional well-being. Staying active and finding alternative social outlets is a big factor in avoiding wintertime depression. If you have older family members who are at risk of becoming isolated, make an effort to visit, call, or arrange activities to keep their spirits high.
  4. Eat a varied diet. When it’s cold outside we’re less likely to get the sun exposure that we need for our bodies to produce Vitamin D, and we tend to eat a less varied diet. Eating foods with Vitamin D, like milk, grains, and certain seafood can help with this deficit. You might even talk with your doctor about taking a vitamin D supplement.
  5. Prepare for emergencies. Winter storms can cause a variety of problems including long-lasting power outages and snowed- or iced-in conditions. It is essential to be prepared for such events before they occur. The CDC website has a wealth of information on preparing for extreme cold conditions. They have created a printable document – Extreme Cold Guide – that includes information for what to do before, during, and after a winter storm. Tips include storm preparation, safety checklists, and health information. This guide is a valuable clearinghouse for anyone preparing for winter weather. [1]
  6. Drive safely. While safe driving practices are always paramount, hazards can be exaggerated during inclement weather. It is important to know one’s limits when it comes to operating a vehicle. If you don’t feel comfortable driving in ice and snow, ask a friend or family member for a ride. Another concern on the road is emergency preparedness. Make sure you have supplies in your car to keep you safe in case of a stranding or accident. Warm blankets and clothes, food, a flashlight, and an ice scraper should be standard equipment in the car. Always travel with a cell phone and charger in case you have an emergency. Another way to avoid problems is to have your car winterized by a trusted professional.
  7. Maintain safe heating. It is vitally important to keep heaters, fireplaces, furnaces, etc. in good working order and free of clutter to avoid fires and carbon monoxide leaks. Beyond having these devices checked by a professional, you should have working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Make sure the detectors are properly installed on every floor and are in good working condition. Each bedroom and sleeping area should have its own smoke detector. [2]
By following these basic safety tips you and your loved ones can reduce the risk of serious problems this winter. Stay warm and be safe!
Resources:
  1. http://emergency.cdc.gov/disasters/winter/guide.asp
  2. http://www.nfpa.org/safety-information/for-consumers/fire-and-safety-equipment/smoke-alarms
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Don’t Let Distractions Wreck Your Summer Vacation

Distracted driving is a growing – and dangerous – recurring event in the United States. Any activity from talking on a cell phone, looking at a GPS system, to eating or drinking while driving is a distraction and can endanger the driver, passengers, and bystanders. Probably the most alarming distraction of all is text messaging because it requires visual, manual, and cognitive attention from the driver. Five seconds is the average time someone’s eyes are off the road while texting. When traveling at 55 mph, that’s enough time to cover the length of a football field blindfolded.

In 2013, around 424,000 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes that involved a distracted driver, with more than 3,100 people being killed. A study through the National Institutes of Health found that drivers eat, reach for the phone, text, or otherwise take their eyes off the road about 10 percent of the time. “As a physician, I’ve seen the effects of distracted driving first-hand, including several orthopedic, spinal cord, and traumatic brain injuries,” says Dr. Ike Osuji, Medical Director of Mesquite Specialty Hospital, stating that more than half of traumatic brain injuries are caused by automobile accidents.

“A brain injury occurs when there is a blow or jolt to the head.” In a vehicle accident, this can occur when an airbag deploys or a person hits the windshield or steering wheel. All brain injuries are serious and can affect a person’s cognitive or physical abilities. They also can result in behavioral or emotional impairments as well.” A person who suffers a significant brain injury most likely will require critical care as well as rehabilitation to relearn basic skills, such as walking, talking or eating. “Our goal in helping these types of patients is to address the acute medical issues and improve an individual’s abilities to perform daily activities,” Osuji says, “It can be a long process that requires the specialized skills of a multidisciplinary medical team. And, while I’m glad that I’m part of a team at MSH that can help in the long-term recovery of these types of patients, I would rather see these types of injuries being prevented.” “It’s time to stop the epidemic of distracted driving,” Dr. Osuji says, “the simplest and most effective way to do this is to turn off your cell phone when you turn on the car ignition. Pay attention to the road instead. Let’s all be responsible drivers, and let’s save lives together.”

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Having a Heart-to-Heart with your Doctor

When it comes to matters of the heart, the silent treatment is never an effective cure. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, with more than 600,000 people dying from it every year. “Heart disease can refer to many types of conditions, but the most common is coronary artery disease, which can lead to a heart attack,” says Dr. Ike Osuji, Medical Director of Mesquite Specialty Hospital. “Anyone can develop heart disease. This happens when a substance called plaque builds up in your arteries, which then narrow over time and limit the blood flow to your heart.” Behaviors such as smoking, unhealthy eating and not getting enough exercise all are factors that contribute to a person’s risk of heart disease. High cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes also are risk factors.

“To be heart-healthy, it’s important that you talk openly and frankly with your doctor about preventing or treating these medical conditions,” Osuji says. “I know that speaking up may be difficult for some patients, but I can’t stress enough that miscommunication – or no communication – between you and your physician can hurt your health. Many people may not feel comfortable asking questions of their physician for a variety of reasons, be it embarrassment, nervousness, lack of knowledge or because their physician may appear to be rushed for time or uses a lot of technical language that’s hard to understand.

“I think I can talk for the majority of my colleagues when I say that as physicians, we strive to create environments that our patients feel comfortable in,” Osuji says. “We appreciate when issues are discussed and we can work together as a team with our patients. The more we can understand about our patients, the more we can help them reach optimal health.”

Dr. Osuji says when it comes to heart health, open communication is key. Taking part in decisions about your treatment, following the treatment plan that you and your doctor agree on, watching for problems, and becoming actively involved in solving them can reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke. “It’s not just about listening to what you’re told, it’s about asking the right questions and raising appropriate concerns so we can get the best results together,” Osuji says. “When a patient engages with their physician and obtains quality information about prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and recovery, it helps ensure safety, prevent errors, and improve health.” Dr. Osuji, offers the following tips in talking to your physician:

  • Ask questions, especially to ensure that you’re following your doctor’s advice and taking your medication correctly. If you don’t understand something, keep asking until you do.
  • Before you come to your medical visit, write down questions or concerns. This way, you will remember the most important items that you need to discuss.
  • Also, write down the answers. You may receive a lot of information that could be hard to remember. Take a pad of paper and pen and write down your physician’s answers so you’ll be able to review them when you get home.
  • Ask your physician about the best way to contact him or her if you have an urgent question after the visit.
  • Become an informed consumer. Do a bit of research on your own through reliable sources that your doctor will respect when forming your questions. For heart health and stroke information, consider the Heart Association’s website, or a government site such as National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • If you’re still afraid to speak up, take a spouse or loved one with you who can help you ask your questions. Often times, asking questions can be a major change for someone who isn’t used to raising concerns, so don’t be afraid to take along support if you need it.
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