What is a Cardiologist?

Posted: Mar 21st 2023
Categories: Cardiology

A cardiologist is a physician specializing in the treatment and prevention of cardiovascular diseases, particularly of the heart and blood vessels. To pursue a career in cardiology, four years of medical schooling plus an additional six to eight years of internal medicine and specialized training are required. Cardiologists diagnose and treat a wide range of heart and vascular issues. Some common conditions they treat include congenital heart disease, congestive heart disease, high blood pressure, etc.

Many patients see a cardiologist after being referred by their primary care physician. If a patient is experiencing shortness of breath, chest pain, or irregular heartbeat, a cardiologist will examine, diagnose, and create a treatment plan. If surgery is required to repair the heart, a cardiologist will refer the patient to a cardiac surgeon. It is important to note the difference between a cardiologist and cardiac surgeon. Your cardiologist can perform procedures such as heart catheterization or placement of pace makers. Your cardiac surgeon will operate to prevent blood clots, heart attack, valve disease, or open blocked or narrow arteries. A cardiac surgeon also repairs damage to the heart from a traumatic incident such as a crash through surgical intervention.

What does a Cardiologist Treat?

Cardiologists focus on the diagnosis, management, and prevention of cardiovascular disease. Because heart disease is so prevalent in the United States, cardiologists are trained to treat many cardiovascular issues, such as heart attacks, blood clots, and strokes. There are many conditions and illnesses that affect the heart and blood vessels.

What Tests or Procedures do Cardiologists Perform?

Upon visiting a cardiologist, they will perform a series of tests and examinations that will help them to diagnose and devise a treatment plan. Tests include measuring blood pressure, checking heart rate, and reviewing medical and family history. If a cardiologist suspects a patient of having heart disease, they may order further testing, such as an MRI, echocardiogram, or stress test.

What Types of Cardiologists are there?

There are a variety of subspecialties in cardiology. Cardiovascular disease is one of the leading causes of death in the United States, and there are always new developments in treatment being made. It is no surprise that the field of cardiology is vast. If your cardiac care goes beyond your primary care physician’s ability and expertise, they may refer you to a general cardiologist or a heart specialist. Outlined below are just a few of the many types of cardiologists and their areas of expertise.

General cardiology – A general cardiologist will diagnose and treat general issues affecting the heart, such as high blood pressure, valve problems, and high cholesterol.

Electrophysiologist – An electrophysiologist treats problems relating to heart rhythm. An electrophysiologist can perform procedures to regulate the heartbeat such as cardiac ablation, or insert devices like pacemakers.

Pediatric cardiologist – Cardiologists specially trained to treat heart problems in children from infancy to young adults. Pediatric cardiologists commonly treat heart arrhythmia and structural issues.

Non-invasive cardiology – A non-invasive cardiologist, as its name suggests, uses non-invasive methods to test and treat heart disease. External testing methods such as a treadmill stress test, myocardial perfusion imaging (nuclear stress test), or echocardiogram help non-invasive cardiologists diagnose heart conditions.

Interventional cardiology – Interventional cardiologists use catheters to diagnose, treat and perform minimally invasive procedures on your heart and blood vessels. Stent placement in the coronary artery and opening blocked arteries (angioplasty) are common procedures performed by interventional cardiologists.

Does a cardiologist receive special training?

Given that a cardiologist treats one of the body’s most vital organ, cardiologists require extensive knowledge and training. It takes about 13 years to become a cardiologist. A cardiologist must first obtain a Bachelor’s degree in a science or health-related field. Then, they must complete four years of medical school. After graduating medical school, they complete a residency program. Following their residency, they may pursue a fellowship program, furthering their education in whichever subspecialty of cardiology they choose. They must also be licensed by their state and pass a board certification exam.

When should I see a cardiologist?

If you do not have a family history of heart disease, or have not already been diagnosed with a cardiovascular issue, it can be difficult to know when you should see a cardiologist. If you currently have gum disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, are a smoker, or are inactive and looking to begin a new exercise program, you should see a cardiologist. A sedentary lifestyle, unbalanced diet, and smoking/vaping all put you at a higher risk for a heart attack.

Age is not a good indicator of when you should see a cardiologist. Heart attacks are becoming more prevalent in people under the age of 40, thanks to an increasing amount of young adults being diagnosed with the aforementioned conditions. Having your cardiovascular health assessed regardless of age is critical to understanding your risk and preventing a heart attack.

Do I need a referral to see a cardiologist?

Some insurance companies may require a referral from a primary care physician. Not all insurances require this, but it is always best to check and be sure the visit will be covered. Once you have received the referral, choosing the right cardiologist can be difficult. Trinity Medical cardiologists work with you to identify the problem and create treatments that offer the best outcome. With multiple locations across Western New York, we make finding the right provider convenient and easy.