Methodist Healthcare - April 10, 2023

To maintain a healthy heart and prevent heart failure, you may want to ask your physician for a cardiologist referral if you have certain risk factors or a family history of heart disease. Here are five signs it may be time to see a cardiologist.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the leading cause of death for women and men in the U.S., and one in every five deaths is heart disease-related.

The good news is heart disease can often be prevented by monitoring and managing your heart health and making healthy lifestyle choices.

Since many conditions related to heart disease do not result in symptoms, receiving an annual physical exam will help you better understand your overall health and risk for cardiovascular disease. If your primary care provider finds that you may have a heart condition, they may refer you to a cardiologist, which is a physician with expertise in diseases related to the heart and blood vessels.

Here are five signs it may be time to ask your physician for a cardiologist referral.

1. Do you have a personal history of heart events?

After surviving ne heart attack, you will be certain that you do not want to experience another. However, according to the American Heart Association, one in five people who have had a heart attack will be readmitted to the hospital for a second one within five years.

One of the reasons why people who have had heart attacks are at greater risk of having additional heart attacks is because they have already developed heart failure or other heart conditions.

If you have had a heart event, one of the best ways to keep your heart healthy is to add a cardiologist to your healthcare team. A cardiologist can help treat your heart conditions and possibly help you reverse heart failure to prevent future cardiovascular issues. They may recommend cardiac rehabilitation or prescribe medications such as aspirin, beta blockers or statins.

2. Are you experiencing heart disease symptoms?

Some of the signs of cardiovascular disease include pain the in the chest, lightheadedness or dizziness, shortness of breath and heart palpitations. For example, angina can cause chest discomfort and pain when the blood flow to the heart is restricted due to plaque buildup on the artery walls. Dizziness can sometimes indicate heart arrhythmia, heart damage or heart valve issues.

When you go to the cardiologist presenting these symptoms, they will perform tests to determine the cause of the symptoms, diagnose your condition and treat it.

Please note: If you are experiencing chest pain, tightness in the chest, shortness of breath and lightheadedness, these could be signs of a heart attack, which is a life-threatening event. If you think you are having a heart attack, call 911 and get to the nearest emergency room as soon as possible.

3. Do you need help managing your heart disease risk factors?

Although several medical conditions and lifestyle choices can put you at risk for heart disease, most people with cardiovascular disease have one or more of these top risk factors: high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol and a history of smoking.

Your primary care physician may be able to help you manage high blood pressure and refer you to resources to help you stop smoking. However, some conditions and combinations of risk factors may require specialized care from a cardiologist or endocrinologist.

Additional medical conditions and lifestyle choices, which can put you at risk for heart disease include:

  • Diabetes
  • Excessive alcohol use
  • Obesity
  • Physical inactivity
  • Unhealthy diet

4. Do you have a family history of heart disease?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), if you have a family health history of heart disease, you are more likely to develop the condition yourself. Different types of heart disease and related conditions, such as high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol, can also run in families. So, knowing your family’s history of diseases and related conditions is one of the first steps you can take to prevent those health issues in the future.

With the help of your physician and/or cardiologist, you can also develop prevention techniques for certain conditions. This may include lifestyle changes through diet, exercise and stress management. This may also involve medication, regular health screenings or genetic testing.

If your healthcare provider has your family’s health history, together, you can discuss the types of screenings you need and how often you should be screened. Knowing your family’s health information can also help physicians diagnose conditions early when they are often in their most treatable stages.

5. Are you over the age of 40 and interested in starting a new exercise program?

Regular physical activity is one of the best things you can do for your heart and overall health. But if you are over 40 years old and interested in starting a new exercise program, it is a good idea to check in with your primary care physician before you begin.

Depending on your health history and risk factors for heart disease, your provider may recommend that you see a cardiologist. Your cardiologist may use an exercise stress test to record your heart's electrical activity while you walk on a treadmill or pedal on a stationary bike. This test can determine how well your heart responds when it’s working hardest, and the test results can help your cardiologist recommend an appropriate exercise plan.

Finding a cardiologist

If you are concerned about your heart health and think you may need to see a cardiologist, make an appointment with your primary care physician to evaluate your symptoms and determine the best treatment option for you. Find a doctor near you.

If you think you might be at risk of developing a heart condition, take a free heart health risk assessment today to better understand your heart disease risk and the best next steps you can take for your health.