If your doctor says you need major surgery, first things first: Get a second opinion.

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The American Heart Association says don't be afraid to question your doctor and say you want a second opinion. The AHA says many patients don't speak up because they worry they will offend their doctor. In fact, the association says most doctors welcome second opinions, especially when it comes to major procedures.

The AHA says a good way to start the process is to ask your doctor for a referral. You also can ask family and friends who have had similar conditions for recommendations. If you decide to seek a second opinion, have your doctor send all of your records to the new doctor. And be sure to ask the second doctor to send the diagnosis to your original doctor.