When you have a condition or disease that impacts the heart, you will go see a specialized doctor called a cardiologist. Seeing a specialist can be scary, especially if you do not fully understand your symptoms, condition, or disease. Understanding cardiology is a great way to ease your mind and prepare for your upcoming appointment with a heart specialist.
What is a Cardiologist?
A cardiologist is a specialized doctor that focuses on the heart. Just like other doctors, a cardiologist has received a four year medical degree and has completed a three year residency program focused on internal medicine. In addition though, a cardiologist has performed an additional three years in specialized care, focusing on internal medicine as it relates to the heart. A cardiologist focuses on the heart itself, as well as the valves, arteries, and blood vessels surrounding the muscle.
Why Would I Need A Cardiologist?
A person will have to combat heart conditions and disease for one of two reasons. First, a person may have a congenital heart condition or defect. This could be something a person was born with and will have to deal with for his or her life. Alternatively, a person can develop a heart disease or condition over time. Heart disease may be the primary condition, or may develop as a secondary disease or condition accompanied by a larger, underlying systemic disease.
Congenital heart disease is becoming more common, and it is estimated that 1 in 4 babies are now born with some type of heart defect. Luckily, there are tests and screenings available to help diagnose potential heart concerns before a baby is born. Some common congenital heart conditions and diseases can include:
- Atrial Septal Defect
- Coarctation of the Aorta
- Double-outlet Right Ventricle
- Pulmonary Atresia
- Ventricular Septal Defect
Alternatively, a person can develop a heart disease or condition over time. It is important to remember that heart disease can form in people of any age, with any type of medical history. Those with underlying health concerns may be more at risk to develop heart diseases. Often, people who suffer from obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes find themselves more at risk to develop some type of heart disease over time. Some examples of developed heart disease include:
- Coronary Artery Disease
- Heart Failure
- Mitral Valve Prolapse
- Pulmonary Stenosis
What Diagnostic Tests and Treatments Are There?
Luckily, there are several diagnostic tests and treatments available for people who suffer from heart disease. Many of these tests can be completely non-invasive allowing the physician to get a picture of your heart health without having to perform a surgical procedure. A common type of non-invasive procedure is an echocardiogram. This test sends a small sound wave through the skin, bouncing off the heart, and is able to produce an image of the heart walls and valve. This can be performed at a resting heart rate, or through exercise. Another common diagnostic test performed is a Holter monitor. This portable monitor can record and measure heart rate activity in a defined time period to give cardiologists a better picture of how the heart performs throughout the day.
Unfortunately though, sometimes surgery is necessary to repair and monitor heart function. Some common heart surgeries include a bypass surgery, pacemaker implant, or heart valve surgery. These surgeries can be performed to improve blood flow to the heart, help steady an irregular heart beat, or repair diseased or damaged components of the heart to allow the muscle to function better. While these are major surgeries, the prognosis following a surgery for a heart disease or condition is good. Many people continue to live a long, and healthy life for 15 years or longer following an invasive heart surgery.