Choosing To Live Better

Determining When To Visit A Cardiologist

A cardiologist is a specialist that deals with heart problems. However, not everyone with a somewhat increased risk for heart disease needs to visit this type of specialist. In some cases, a general practitioner can provide all of the care needed.

Heart Problems Treated

A cardiologist treats people with coronary artery disease, heart failure, heart rhythm problems, and heart valve problems as well as those who have had a heart attack. People who are at a high risk for heart attack may benefit from the types of screening provided by these specialists as well, but not everyone who has high blood pressure or cholesterol needs to visit a specialist. This screening could include getting a cardiac catheterization to find blocked arteries, an electrocardiogram to check your heart rhythm, a stress test to see how well your heart deals with activity, and an echocardiogram to take pictures of your heart. If there is a problem, treatment may include changing your lifestyle, taking certain medications, or having a catheter-based procedure or surgery.

Signs of a Potential Problem

Chest pain, trouble swallowing, dizziness, nausea, being short of breath, and pain in the neck, jaw or arms can all be symptoms of a heart problem, especially if you experience more than one of these symptoms at the same time. Certain conditions increase the risk of heart problems or are commonly found in conjunction with these problems, including gum disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, and having a previous history of smoking or preeclampsia. Having a family history of heart problems also increases your risk of having the same types of issues.

What to Do

Unless you think you're actually in the process of having a heart attack (in which case you want to call 911 or get right to the ER), schedule an appointment with your regular doctor. Explain all the symptoms you're experiencing and your concerns so the doctor can determine whether it makes sense to refer you to a cardiologist. If referred, go to see the cardiologist as soon as possible. Most importantly, be honest. Tell the doctor and the cardiologist about all the medications and supplements you are taking, as some supplements aren't safe for those with potential heart problems. Be honest about how much you really exercise, what your diet is like, whether you've really been taking your medication as prescribed, and whether there are any stressful situations currently going on in your life. If you can't tell your doctor the truth, you've got the wrong doctor and should look for a new one. The doctor won't be able to provide the best treatment if she's not in possession of all of the necessary facts.