If you believe you may have a heart problem, contact your primary care physician. Following a preliminary evaluation, and based on their findings, they may refer you to a cardiologist, who is a specialist in heart problems. If you suffer from a heart problem, a cardiologist will guide you through your treatment and monitor your progress.
Cardiology is the study of the heart and blood vessels. Cardiologists can diagnose and treat heart attacks, heart failure, and heart rhythm disturbances. They also are involved during procedures such as cardiac catheterization, balloon angioplasty, and heart surgery.
But you don’t have to wait until you have a problem to visit a cardiologist. You should see a cardiologist if you have or if you’re at risk for heart disease. Your cardiologist will collaborate with your doctor to determine how best to manage your cardiac disease. Your cardiologist will help with day-to-day management of your condition, come up with a treatment plan, run tests, and perform any procedures that are needed.
Your doctor can recommend a cardiologist to you. Be sure the cardiologist accepts payments from your insurance company before making an appointment. Also, check to see if they’re board certified. Specialists who are board certified are expected to provide a certain level of quality care. You may want to look for a cardiologist who is affiliated with a medical school or teaching hospital.
You may wish to choose a cardiologist who specializes in your problem area. If possible, try to see a cardiologist who is connected to a larger institution, like a university or hospital. That way, if you have a complex issue, they can consult with other doctors who might have expertise in a subspecialty area of cardiology.
Even if a cardiologist has all the credentials you need, be sure the doctor will have time for you as a patient. Doctor availability is important, and it should be easy for you to make appointments and to call if you have an emergency. You and your cardiologist should have the same philosophy about treatment of your disease and handling your aftercare.
Your doctor needs to understand your family history and lifestyle so they can determine your risk for heart disease and make recommendations to reduce the risks. It’s important to ask your doctor questions about your disease and the risks associated with it. The following questions will give you an idea of what to ask:
- How will you determine my risk for heart disease? What screening and diagnostic tests will you conduct?
- What is my heart disease risk and how will it change over the next 10 years?
- How does my family history affect my risk for heart disease?
- Should I see a dietician to help develop a heart-healthy diet?
- How often should I schedule check ups for my heart?
If you’ve been hospitalized for a cardiac event or for a diagnostic evaluation or procedure, your doctor will work with you to develop an aftercare plan. You may continue to take prescribed medication and you may need to improve your diet, quit smoking, get regular exercise, and maintain a healthy weight. You may also need to begin a program of cardiac rehabilitation that will give you the training to maintain a healthy life.
Support groups can help you work through any depression or anxiety you may have. It’s important to make doctor’s appointments to follow up on your care. Regular checkups will let the doctor make treatment changes that are needed and address any new problems as quickly as possible.