Three Common Heart Disease Factors Patients Hide from Health Providers
Heart disease can be a touchy subject for many patients. Some people may feel self-conscious about their weight while others may have been affected by a long family history of cardiac arrest. Add in the widely known statistic that heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the US, and conversations about heart disease can become emotionally charged quite quickly.
Some patients may even bend the truth as a defense mechanism. Therefore, healthcare practitioners need to make sure they’re receiving accurate information from patients. While emotional boundaries should always be respected, sometimes a few pointed questions can help practitioners uncover the true state of a patient’s lifestyle and health history.
Thankfully, many Vasolabs partners have meaningful relationships with their patients. Functional medicine and direct primary care practitioners, integrative medicine practitioners, chiropractors, and massage therapists work in settings where they’re able to spend time with the people they serve. If this describes you, then you probably know your patients’ unique life stories. However, these relationships can sometimes lure practitioners into a false sense of security.
If a patient’s conversation doesn’t line up with lab tests and other health metrics, then they may be hiding information from you. Having an open conversation can be the difference between life and death in some cases.
Why Patients are Hesitant to Talk about Heart Disease
Ask your average person if they want to be healthy, and they’ll probably tell you “yes.” Ask them if they’d like to avoid heart disease, and they’ll give the same answer. But ask if they’ve been taking care of their body and following healthy lifestyle recommendations, and they may go quiet or try to change the subject.
In the US, heart disease is connected to many complex emotions. These emotions can trigger fight or flight responses that obscure the true state of a patient’s health. As health practitioners, it helps if we can put ourselves in our patients’ shoes to help them receive the best treatment possible.
- Guilt. Many Americans know the right way to take care of their health, but fail to do so. This can lead to feelings of guilt and inadequacy, which can be compounded by marketing messages that equate exercise and weight loss with pure willpower. Sometimes it’s easier for patients to twist the truth instead of facing feelings of shame.
- Fear. One person dies every 36 seconds from heart disease in the USA. This is an alarming statistic. Not only do patients fear negative outcomes for themselves, but they’ve likely known a relative or friend who has passed due to heart disease. Fear may lead to a deep state of denial and avoidance.
- Lack of Education. Some patients may hide key health information simply because they don’t think it’s worth sharing. For example, older people at risk for heart disease may believe that the classic “meat and potatoes” meal is a sustainable diet although modern science has shown us that too much red meat and starches can be bad for the heart.
Three Health Factors Patients Try to Hide from Practitioners
As we’ve seen, heart disease can be an emotionally taxing topic. Health practitioners of all kinds will want to pay extra attention to specific areas when trying to diagnose or detect cardiovascular conditions. Ask specific questions as opposed to general questions or use follow-up questions to gain more information.
These three factors are often associated with the negative emotions listed above, and patients may avoid them:
- Exercise. Too many people think exercise means lifting 200-pound weights at the gym or running five miles on the treadmill. They also wrongly believe that if they don’t exercise, they’re “lazy.” To help patients open up about their true exercise habits, it’s helpful to reframe exercise in terms of enjoyment. Do you like taking walks in the park? Is there a tennis club you can join? Healthy exercise isn’t just about gritting your teeth and having more willpower.
- Diet. Like exercise, diet is often discussed in terms of willpower, and fad diets don’t help. Many people feel ashamed of their body weight and shapes because of cultural stigmas. Try reframing your diet in terms of moderation and fueling the body. Food is an ally, not an enemy. Educate patients about what their bodies need in order to thrive.
- Family Health History. Ingrained family narratives can affect how someone speaks to their health provider. Perhaps a father refused to go to the doctor even while a heart complication progressed unhindered. Or perhaps a grandmother had a complex mental health disorder that the family refuses to mention in public. These situations don’t have easy answers, but health practitioners should be aware that family health histories may create obstacles to clear and open discussion about health disease.
Vasolabs understands that working with patients can be an emotional process. That’s why we provide practitioner-centered education alongside affordable and convenient heart diagnostic services. Our goal is to help health practitioners reduce overhead and admin time so that they can devote as much time as is necessary to their patients and have constructive conversations about their health.