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Some heart month tips for talking to your doctor

Sunday - 2/9/2014, 9:01pm  ET

WASHINGTON - This is the time of year when we focus on matters of the heart. February brings Valentine's Day, of course, but it is also American Heart Month, a time to take stock of your heart health.

For many people, the starting point is a visit to a primary care physician.

Dr. Proshat Nikou with Adventist Medical Group says basic cardiovascular screenings should be part of every check-up.

"You need to check their cholesterol, their blood pressure and their glucose," she says.

Nikou also includes an electrocardiogram in a regular physical for those with no risk factors. Patients with, say, hypertension or diabetes get an EKG more often - twice a year for those with high blood pressure, every four to six month for diabetics.

Nikou says it's important to not only get the screenings, but to understand the test results. She says she wants her patients to know if their numbers are in the acceptable range, and if there are any danger signs.

She says more education is key, and it is okay to come to a doctor's appointment with a list of questions, especially if they deal with preventative care.

The fact is risk factors like high cholesterol and blood pressure can be significantly reduced through diet and exercise, sometimes in combination with medication.

Another big risk is smoking. Nikou says in the end, that is something every smoker needs to come to terms with and bring under control.

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