Harvard Heart Letter

Talking, tools make for better medical decisions

When options exist, your preferences can help you and your doctor pick the treatment that's right for you.

The daily decisions about what to do for your heart "" Should I take the stairs or the elevator? Ice cream or fruit? "" don't require much thought or conversation. The big ones, though, do: Should I have an angiogram? What's the best kind of replacement heart valve for me? Do I need surgery, a less invasive procedure, or none at all?

Shared decision making, also known as informed decision making, can help with big decisions. These are highfalutin names for a simple process often bypassed in medical care "" a thoughtful, informed conversation between you and your doctor aimed at making a decision that's right for you. It isn't always the easiest way to proceed. It isn't for everyone. And it certainly isn't embraced by all doctors. But it's worth understanding and working toward because you are the one who reaps the benefits and bears the consequences of any treatment.

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