According to cardiologist the prevalence of heart disease has transcended most diseases worldwide to be the leading cause of death. With 17 million people perishing from cardiovascular diseases worldwide, every year, the need to visit a heart doctor is rapidly expanding.
What does a heart doctor do?
Heart doctors or cardiologists specialize in treating cardiovascular diseases by first observing the heart from multiple levels. An extensive examination is done to determine the root cause of the problem and find ways to heal the patient. Heart doctors also educate their patients on how to best take care of their hearts through lifestyle and diet choices and preventive medicine.
Qualifications of heart doctors
Cardiologists or heart physicians go through medical school before focusing on the heart specialty. With four years of medical school below their belt, they should have an additional three years of medical training specific to cardiology. This training seeks to prepare them for their fellowship, which requires another three years. Overall, a typical cardiologist has the minimum practice of around ten years before they start working professionally. Some have longer due to research degrees or additional fellowships.
Additional skills and interests of heart doctors include the willingness to motivate the patient and make critical judgments about management often after a complex decision making process. Being able to communicate efficiently and effectively with patients and staff is also important. Heart doctors should be confident and always be willing to learn more about the heart and vascular system.
When to see a heart doctor
There are telltale symptoms of heart problems that individuals should look out for and aim to seek medical attention as soon as possible:
Shortness of breath
When experiencing trouble breathing, it is best to see a cardiologist for assessment. Breathing should come naturally, and shortness of breath is a reason for concern.
Low blood flow to the brain can cause loss of consciousness or dizziness and light-headedness. It is important to ensure this is not caused by the heart, ie a heart arrhythmia. A visit to the heart doctor will examine the reasons why the heart isn’t pumping blood to the brain.
An unstable sensation, dizziness can indicate the lack of adequate blood flow to the brain, potentially indicating a heart problem.
The occurrence of irregular heartbeats such as palpitations or a racing or erratic heartbeat might indicate heart disorders, warranting the heart physician’s visit all the most crucial. Heart flutters also indicate the need for immediate treatment.
This can be due to various reasons, one of which might be angina or heart attack, caused by lack of enough oxygen reaching the heart. It is best to see your physician immediately to correct the diagnosis before the chest pains escalate to something much worse. The pain can sometimes spread to the arm, back, or jaw. Patients can also sometimes experience sweating and shortness of breath alongside the pain.
What to expect from a heart doctor
When visiting the heart physician, the patient will first answer several questions to determine the condition of their heart. These questions range from drug and family history to lifestyle habits, and their list of symptoms.
Next, the physician will conduct a series of tests to try and identify the cardiovascular conditions that the patient might have. These tests include:
An electrocardiogram tests the electrical activity of the heartbeat. This test examines the reason for chestpains, dizziness, and irregular heartbeats. This procedure involves attaching electrodes on your chest, arms and legs, and attaching them to the EKG machine, which records the heart’s activity and records the information on a graph. This procedure is painless and takes around ten to fifteen minutes.
This test seeks to understand how the heart performs at a time when it requires the most blood flow, stress. The patient is attached to an EKG machine while on a treadmill. The heart physician monitors the ECG or echocardiogram to determine whether enough oxygen through proper blood flow is directed towards the heart.
The patient lies on a bed and a technician or heart specialist uses an ultrasound machine to look at the structure and function of the heart, and its valves. The test takes 20-30 minutes and no X-rays are used.
This procedure involves introducing a catheter to the blood vessel until it reaches the heart to diagnose heart problems. The catheter is injected with a dye, which exposes irregularities or blockages of the heart arteries.
After these tests, the heart physician will diagnose the results and advise on a suitable treatment plan. Depending on the heart condition, the heart physician will prescribe medications and advice on preventive and lifestyle changes. More severe complications will require heart surgery, depending on the situation.
Tips for a healthy heart
It is paramount to maintain healthy lifestyle practices that will help prevent a visit to the cardiologist. Such practices include:
- Maintaining a healthy exercise regimen includes at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity in a week and avoiding a sedentary lifestyle.
- Avoiding smoking and second-hand smoke, as it is a significant cause of coronary and cardiovascular diseases.
- Maintaining a healthy weight. This helps prevent heart attacks, stroke, or cardiovascular diseases independently of other risk factors like cholesterol and blood pressure.
- Maintaining healthy nutrition in the style of the Mediterranean diet.
- Making sure you get your cholesterol, blood glucose and blood pressure checked regularly.