What can you expect?

Your doctor will probably begin by giving you a physical exam. This exam may include:

  • Taking your blood pressure.
  • Observing how you look and act. For example, if your skin has a bluish tone, it might mean there is a problem with your heart. If you are pale, it might indicate that you are anemic (low iron levels in your blood). Swelling in your feet and legs may indicate signs of heart disease.
  • Listening to your heart to see if there are any sounds that might indicate a problem such as a heart rhythm disorder. Your doctor may also take your pulse in several different parts of the body to see if there are any areas with blood flow problems.
  • Taking your pulse to check your heart's rate, rhythm and regularity.
  • Assessing your breathing. Listening to your lungs for abnormal breath sounds, or crackling sounds that may indicate signs of heart disease.
  • Listening to your abdomen with a stethoscope to hear the sounds of blood flow. Certain sounds may indicate a narrowed blood vessel in the abdomen.
  • Looking in your eyes for signs of hemorrhage (e.g. blood spots), high blood pressure or reduced blood flow (ischemia). Changes in the blood vessels in the eye can also give clues to the presence of diabetes.
  • Asking you a series of question, including:
  • What symptoms or warning signals you had before your heart attack or stroke.
  • What medications you are taking.
  • Your family history of stroke or heart disease, if any.
  • Your past health and medical history.
  • Your risk factors for heart disease.

Based on this examination, your doctor may order other tests to get more information about your condition.