The heart isn’t just one of the most important organs in the body, it’s also one of the most complicated. We don’t often think much about the complex functioning of our cardiac system unless something goes wrong – like pain or pressure or a racing heartbeat. When that happens, it’s time to visit a cardiologist.
Experts in diagnosis, treatment and prevention
Cardiologists are doctors with special skills and training in diagnosing, treating and preventing heart disease, heart attacks, heart failure and heart rhythm disturbances. When you first see a cardiologist, he or she will start with a review of your medical history and then perform a physical exam to check for problems. It’s important to be totally honest with your cardiologist about any problems you are having. Don’t ever hide the fact that you still smoke cigarettes or haven’t exercised in a long time. The more your cardiologist knows about you, the easier it is to diagnose your problem.
Some of the issues and symptoms you should see a cardiologist for include:
- Shortness of breath
- Pain or pressure in your chest upon exertion or rest
- Rapid heartbeat that may be accompanied by light-headedness and near fainting
- Reduced ability to perform everyday activities
- Chest pressure or pain that travels to your left arm, neck/throat, middle of your back, or teeth.
- Concern about a family history of heart disease
- Unexplained weight gain
It’s extremely important to pay attention to any heart issues you might have. Many people wind up in Emergency Rooms each year because they failed to take action on warning signs. If you have a heart problem, you need to have it checked out as soon as possible.
What kinds of tests can I expect to be performed?
If your cardiologist wants to learn more about how your heart is working, you will often have you undergo one or more of the following tests:
Echocardiogram – this common test uses soundwaves (ultrasound) to record images of the heart that detail its structure and how it is functioning.
Stress (Treadmill) Test – a study, done on a treadmill, that measures your heart’s performance while it is working harder during exercise.
Cardiac Catheterization – a test in which a small tube is placed in or near the heart to take pictures, look at how the heart is functioning and check the electrical system. It is also used during procedures to relieve blockages.
Holter/Event Monitoring – A Holter monitor provides a continuous recording of your heart rhythm during daily activities, usually during a 24 to 48 hour period. It is an effective way to diagnose abnormal heart rhythms, also known as arrhythmias. Event monitoring allows a patient to push a button and record an irregular heartbeat so a physician can evaluate it later.
Contrast Echocardiogram – If the walls of the heart cannot be seen clearly with a regular echocardiogram, a special contrast material (dye) is injected through an IV in your bloodstream. This allows a clearer viewing of the walls of the heart.
After diagnosis, your cardiologist may recommend lifestyle and diet changes or that you take medication for treatment. In some serious cases, patients may need devices such as a pacemaker or implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) to protect themselves from an abnormal heart rhythm. Cardiologists also perform cardiac ablation procedures to stop abnormal heart rhythms. The good news is that treatment for heart disease keeps improving, and many heart patients are able to live more active lives than ever before.
The doctors and advanced practitioners at the Division of Cardiology at Reliant Medical Group are dedicated to providing superior care for all manner of cardiac problems, including advanced testing and treatment. To learn more, call (508) 368-3130 or click here.