Cardiologists are doctors who specialize in treating the cardiovascular system. They diagnose and treat conditions that affect the heart and blood vessels.
The cardiovascular system is a complex network, and cardiovascular diseases are just as complex to treat. Cardiologists specialize in preventing, diagnosing and treating these diseases. Some of the many diseases and health issues treated by a cardiologist include:
Heart attack – Also known as a myocardial infarction, a heart attack happens when not enough blood flows to the heart because of a clot in the artery. A heart attack is a medical emergency and requires immediate attention.
Heart failure – A chronic condition in which the heart cannot pump enough blood or oxygen. Heart failure is progressive and there is no cure, but with proper treatment people can live long lives with the condition.
Heart Valve Disease – Heart valve disease is when one or more of the four valves do not work properly. When blood flow through the valves is disrupted, it can lead to other complications such as heart failure, blood clots, stroke, arrhythmia, or death.
Hypertension – Also called HBP, or high blood pressure, is when the force of blood being pushed against the blood vessels is too high. High blood pressure is known as a “silent killer”, because it does not present symptoms, leaving many people are unaware they have it. The only way to measure your blood pressure is to see your healthcare provider for an exam.
High cholesterol – Like hypertension, high cholesterol does not present symptoms until a person has developed serious complications like a stroke or heart attack. High cholesterol levels cause plaque buildup in the walls of the arteries, limiting blood flow.
Arrhythmia – Arrhythmia, or heart rhythm abnormality, is a disruption in the electrical signals that make the heart beat. This can cause the heart to beat irregularly, too fast, or slow.
Congenital heart disease – A broad term for babies born with heart defects. These can include a hole in the heart and defective valves or vessels.
Coronary artery disease – When plaque build-up narrows or blocks blood flow to your heart, the arteries can become damaged. Limiting blood flow to the heart puts you at risk of having a heart attack.
Pericarditis – Pericarditis is a mild condition concerning the saclike tissue surrounding the heart. When the layers of this sac become irritated and swollen, it can cause a sharp, stabbing pain in the chest. Most cases of pericarditis improve on their own.
Cardiogenic shock – Cardiogenic shock happens when the heart suddenly stops pumping blood to the rest of the body. Cardiogenic shock is a medical emergency, and is usually brought on by a serious heart attack.
Cardiac arrest – Cardiac arrest happens when the heart suddenly stops beating and pumping blood. Like heart attacks, cardiac arrests are urgent and require immediate medical treatment. Delays in treatment can cause permanent brain damage due to lack of oxygen.
Cardiomyopathy – Diseases or disorders that affect the heart muscle. These conditions make it difficult for the heart to pump blood and over time can lead to heart failure.
Blood clot – Blood clots are a blood coagulation that usually form when you are injured to stop the bleeding process. Blood clots can form outside the blood vessel and travel to other parts of the body and cause serious conditions, such as a stroke or heart attack.
Aortic Valve Stenosis – One of the most common and serious diseases of the heart valve, aortic stenosis is when the valve does not fully open to allow adequate blood flow. Aortic stenosis can be congenital, meaning present at birth, but it is usually developed over time due to calcium build-up.
Cardiology is a challenging discipline, and doctors always need to stay up to date on the latest advancements in treatment as well as new diseases and conditions that could affect the cardiovascular system. Though being a cardiologist can be demanding and highly stressful at times, it is also a very rewarding field of internal medicine.