Should I See a Cardiologist?
What is a cardiologist?
A cardiologist is a physician who has completed specialized training in conditions that affect the heart. Cardiologists collaborate as a team – some work more generally with diagnoses and imaging of the heart while others perform surgical procedures or specialize in electrical disorders of the heart.
We help primary care providers treat challenging cases of common problems such as hypertension, common rhythm problems/symptoms and elevated cholesterol.
When to talk to your primary care provider about heart health concerns
If you are experiencing sudden, severe chest pain or pressure in the center or left side of the chest it is best to call 911 to get emergency help. Be aware that some people may experience "silent" heart attacks and women can have different symptoms.
Cardiovascular issues have a wide range of symptoms including chest symptoms, shortness of breath and palpitations. If you have concerns about your heart health or are at risk for heart-related illnesses, reach out to your primary care provider to discuss your concerns.
Risk factors for heart-related illnesses
- High blood pressure
- Irregular heartbeat, including atrial fibrillation
- A family history of heart-related illnesses
- A history of smoking
- Pre-diabetes or diabetes
- High cholesterol
Your primary care provider will examine you, listen to your heart and may perform an ECG in their office. Their assessment of your symptoms will determine if you should see a cardiologist.
What tests check your heart?
Blood tests, which can check cholesterol levels and more, and electrocardiograms are a part of an initial evaluation. An electrocardiogram can be conducted quickly in an office and involves electrodes placed on the torso. Small electric pulses are sent through the body and back to the ECG machine to record the heart’s electrical activity.
Diagnostic testing sometimes includes an echocardiogram, which uses ultrasound technology to produce two- or three-dimensional images of your heart, showing your heart's motion, size, and valves. A stress test shows how well your heart works when you exercise. These tests will identify your heart's condition and indicate needed procedures or treatments.
Prevention is the best medicine
The most important participant on the heart team is YOU! Cardiologists can help with primary prevention of heart disease, the diagnosis of a heart condition and then the chronic management of all heart conditions.
You can help reduce your risk of heart conditions with these simple but critically important things:
- Avoiding or quitting smoking
- Limit alcohol intake
- Adding 90-150 minutes of aerobic exercise to your week
- Choosing a heart-healthy diet and reducing sodium intake
- Managing stress levels
Talk with your primary care provider regarding any symptoms or concerns you may have about your heart health. If you have an established heart condition – be sure to follow up with your primary care provider AND your cardiologist routinely to ensure you are doing all you can to stay healthy.
We are here to help you
About the Author:
Marilyn J. Weigner, MD
Dr. Marilyn J. Weigner is a cardiologist at the Lifespan Cardiovascular Institute, with expertise in consultative cardiology, echocardiography and noninvasive cardiac testing. She has more than fifteen years of experience in consultation and care of patients with all forms of cardiovascular disease.
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