Q: What is a cardiologist?
A: A cardiologist is a physician with advanced training in identifying, treating and preventing diseases of the heart and blood vessels. Cardiologists receive extensive training in the cardiovascular system, completing four years of medical school, three years of training in general internal medicine, and then pursuing additional years of specialized training.
Cardiologists evaluate and treat disorders of the cardiovascular system, such as arrhythmia, hypertension, heart failure, aneurysms, peripheral arterial disease (PAD) and coronary artery disease (CAD). These conditions may require very specialized testing from a cardiologist, such as an echocardiogram, exercise test or cardiac catheterization.
A cardiologist also advises patients on heart disease prevention. These preventative measures include smoking cessation, exercise, and eating right.
Q: Is there a difference between a cardiologist and a cardiac surgeon?
A: Yes, while a cardiologist performs non-invasive and invasive procedures (i.e. angioplasty and stenting), they do not perform heart surgery. A cardiac surgeon is a specialist who performs surgery on the heart and the blood vessels. Cardiac surgeons are board certified in general surgery, and then go on to complete specialized training in heart surgery. Cardiologists refer their patients to a cardiac surgeon for complex surgical procedures.
Q: When should I be referred to a cardiologist?
A: You may be referred to a cardiologist for diagnostic tests or treatment suggestions if your primary care doctor suspects a significant heart or related cardiovascular condition. Shortness of breath, chest pains and dizziness often require special testing from a cardiologist. A cardiologist’s skills and training are required for decisions about heart attacks, heart failure, heart rhythm disturbances and other serious cardiovascular diseases.
A cardiologist does not replace your primary care doctor; rather they consult and work together with you and your regular physician to ensure optimal heart health.
Q: What symptoms suggest that I might be having a heart attack?
A: The American Heart Association notes these major warning signs of a heart attack:
- Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks cause pain in the center of the chest, lasting for more than a few minutes. Discomfort may subside for a few minutes and then return. The discomfort can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain.
- Pain or discomfort in other areas of the body, including one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
- Shortness of breath. This symptom may occur before any feeling of discomfort arises in the chest, but most often accompanies it.
- Other symptoms. Breaking out in a cold sweat, or experiencing nausea and light-headedness is also common in the advent of a heart attack.
If you experience any of these symptoms, get help quickly. Call 911 if these symptoms are sudden, recurrent, severe or persistent. You should also contact your doctor if you have brief symptoms, even if you feel better. Preventing a heart attack before it occurs is much better than treating the consequences of heart damage.
Q: I’m scheduled for diagnostic testing. How should I prepare?
A: Each diagnostic test is different and may require special instructions. Your doctor will educate you directly. If you are unsure, contact our office for more information regarding your scheduled procedure.
Q: What are the risk factors of heart disease?
A: Both pre-existing conditions as well as lifestyle choices can contribute to your level of risk for heart disease. The major risk factors include: smoking, high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, age, gender, heredity (including race), and physical inactivity.
Q: Will my cardiac care be covered by my insurance?
A: Any questions about your insurance coverage and payment options should be directed to our billing department. Please contact our office for additional information.