If you are over the age of 40 and are overweight and have been inactive, you should consider seeing a doctor before beginning an exercise program. A primary care doctor can do a basic check on your cardiovascular function, and prescribe a starting program. But a cardiologist can be involved in this as well and provide additional insights based on your individual needs. Dr. Allen Amorn, a well-respected cardiologist from Ohio, details the reasons why a patient should see a cardiologist and gives examples of the conditions that may refer them for care.
What’s a Cardiologist?
A cardiologist is a doctor who specializes in the health of the heart and vascular systems. Cardiologists can help patients with a wide variety of problems, including heart rhythm problems, valve problems, and heart disease. There are a number of conditions that a primary care doctor should refer to a cardiologist for the best possible treatment.
Referral by a Primary Care Physician
If your primary care doctor refers you to a cardiologist, do not put off this appointment. Cardiologists can intervene in some serious heart problems early on and control some issues through medication. If your primary care doctor wants you to see a cardiologist, it is because you are having issues that he or she wants specialty input on.
Onset of Chest Pains
If you are having recurrent chest pain, you should be seen by a cardiologist. According to Dr. Allen Amorn, a cardiologist with a specialization in electrophysiology, cardiologists can rule out other causes of chest pain and can decide if your problem is originating in the heart itself. Please note that outpatient referral for chest pain and waiting to see a cardiologist is appropriate for stable unchanging symptoms. New or worsening episodes of chest pain may require emergency evaluation first to ensure stability. Many other symptoms can also be evaluated by a cardiologist if your primary care doctor feels they are potentially cardiac in nature.
Family History of Heart Problems
It is important that anyone with a family history of heart problems consider seeing a cardiologist to determine whether they themselves are at risk of the disorder. Especially if your parents had heart disease develop before the age of 65 for women and 55 for men, you may need to work with a cardiologist to manage your risk.
High Cholesterol Levels
A patient with a total cholesterol level of 200 mg/dL should be seen by a cardiologist. High cholesterol is a serious risk factor for heart disease and can lead to such conditions as atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries.
High Blood Pressure
Ideally, blood pressure should be maintained below 120/80. Higher blood pressure should be monitored by a primary care physician and at times, a cardiologist. Blood pressure disorders place a great deal of stress on the heart, and vascular system, meaning that such problems as strokes are more likely to happen. Controlling blood pressure can reduce your chances of developing these serious issues.
If you still smoke, try to quit. Quitting smoking really is the single best thing you can do for your health. Even if you are a former smoker, you are still at risk of heart disease. Smoking damages the lining of the arteries, and it increases the heart rate, blood pressure, and blood clotting. Working with your doctors to help minimize your risk factors for heart and vascular disease.
Diabetes is another major risk factor for heart disease. Diabetes damages the heart and causes blood vessels to weaken. Many diabetics worry predominantly about blood sugar, but the long term effects of diabetes are very serious for the cardiovascular system. Having your doctors work in collaboration can minimize these risks.
A woman with preeclampsia, or high blood pressure and shedding of protein through the urine in pregnancy, should be considered to be referred to a cardiologist. Preeclampsia produces very high blood pressure and can be damaging to the heart later in life. Emerging scientific evidence is showing this to be a significant risk for women in the long term.
Surprisingly, there is a strong connection between gum disease and heart disease. The constant inflammation and swelling in the mouth can introduce infection, leading to heart disease. If a patient has serious gum disease, it is worthwhile to see a cardiologist. A cardiologist can work with a dentist or oral surgeon to help the patient reduce his or her chance of complications. Oral infections can also lead to significant risks of valve disease.
Dr. Allen Amorn on Best Ways to Prevent Complications
Dr. Allen Amorn reminds patients that seeing a cardiologist should happen before any major crises occur. A cardiologist can recommend preventative measures and help a patient achieve better health. Heart disease does not have to be inevitable. It can be managed like any other disease. Taking note of these ten risk factors can help a patient decide when to progress from their primary care doctor to see a specialist in cardiology.
The best way to avoid needing to see a cardiologist is to adopt a healthy diet and take regular exercise early on in life and stick to the plan – there’s a reason we call it cardiovascular exercise, after all.