|When should you see a cardiologist?|
For certain problems involving the heart and blood vessels, your primary care physician may manage your care. Examples would be high blood pressure or high blood cholesterol that are successfully treated with medication. Your family doctor will also take the lead in helping you to lose a few pounds, get more exercise, or stop smoking, if these are changes you need to make. But if your heart problems are more complicated, it’s time to see a cardiologist.
Cardiologists are the experts when it comes to diagnosing and treating heart disease. In fact, studies have shown that cardiologists are at the forefront in applying the latest research and following practice guidelines in treating patients with heart disease. And if you have another medical condition, such as diabetes or kidney disease, your cardiologist will know how to plan your care in a way that takes into account all of your health needs.
Sometimes your family doctor will ask a cardiologist to evaluate your heart and simply recommend the right treatment or further tests. An example of this might be doing a stress test in someone with a strong family history of heart disease. In other cases, however, your heart problem may be serious enough that it will require the ongoing care of a cardiologist.
Chest pain or discomfort is one of the most common reasons to see a cardiologist. Also known as angina, it may be caused by a build up of cholesterol that narrows the arteries supplying blood to your heart. If your heart can’t get enough blood and oxygen during physical activity, the result can be chest pain or discomfort. Cholesterol deposits in the coronary arteries can suddenly break open and cause a blood clot to form, completely blocking blood flow in the coronary artery to the heart and causing a heart attack. A cardiologist will use an electrocardiogram (referred to as an ECG or EKG), which traces the electrical activity in your heart, as well as blood tests, to determine whether you have had a heart attack. The information from these tests will help your cardiologist to plan the appropriate treatment for you.
When there’s a disturbance in the rhythm of your heartbeat, called an arrhythmia, you also need to see a cardiologist. Unexplained shortness of breath might be another reason, as difficulty breathing could be a sign of congestive heart failure or a problem with the valves in your heart.