Symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath, and dizziness and a family history of heart disease can all point to a heart attack. The last thing you want is to be late in making changes that lower your risk for heart-related complications, many of which can be life-threatening.
If you want to stay on top of your heart health, you need to see a heart doctor or a cardiologist, and you need to see the right cardiologist for your needs. What we have here is a comprehensive guide to cardiology and how to choose the right heart doctor for you.
What is Cardiology?
Cardiology, simply put, is the study of the heart. It is a highly specialized field of medicine that focuses on the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of conditions affecting the heart and cardiovascular system.
Cardiologists are medical doctors who have specialized knowledge that helps in understanding the complexities of the heart and cardiovascular system, which aids in providing comprehensive care for patients with heart disease.
Being experts of the heart, cardiologists can provide for all your cardiology needs, whether what you seek is preventive care, the management of a chronic heart condition, or if you are in need of a cardiology procedure.
What Can Cardiologists Diagnose and Treat?
The field of cardiology encompasses various aspects related to heart health. Some of the heart conditions cardiologists treat and help manage are:
- Coronary artery disease (CAD), a narrowing or blockage of the coronary arteries supplying blood to the heart
- Congestive heart failure, where the heart is unable to pump enough blood that the body needs
- Arrhythmia, or abnormal heart rhythm
- Valvular heart disease, characterized by problems with the heart valves
- Hypertension, commonly referred to as high blood pressure, a chronic condition that puts strain on the heart and blood vessels
- Myocardial infarction, referred to as heart attack
- Cardiomyopathies or diseases of the heart muscle
How Do Cardiologists Diagnose Heart Conditions?
The way cardiologists diagnose is through a combination of a physical exam, a review of your medical history, a blood test, and echocardiogram (an echo test), electrocardiogram (ECG/EKG), stress test, cardiac catheterization, and cardiac imaging (CT scans or MRI scans). The type of tests prescribed will depend on what the doctor deems appropriate.
Let’s explore these diagnostic methods further:
Physical Exam and Review of Medical History
Cardiologists begin by obtaining a detailed medical history, including symptoms, risk factors, and family history of heart disease. They then perform a thorough physical examination, listening to the heart sounds, checking blood pressure, and assessing other relevant signs.
Various blood tests can help diagnose heart conditions by measuring specific markers or substances. For example, cardiac enzymes and certain proteins can indicate heart damage or inflammation.
This non-invasive test aims to record the electrical signals coming from the heart. Electrodes are placed on the chest, arms, and legs to measure the heart’s electrical impulses. An ECG provides information about heart rate, rhythm, and any abnormalities.
This imaging test uses ultrasound waves to create detailed images of the heart’s structure and function. It allows cardiologists to assess the heart’s chambers, valves, and overall pumping ability. Echocardiography helps diagnose conditions such as heart valve disorders, congenital heart defects, and heart muscle abnormalities.
A cardiac stress test evaluates heart function and blood flow under physical exertion. Patients typically exercise on a treadmill or stationary bike while connected to an ECG machine. Stress tests help assess the heart’s function, blood flow, and detect any signs of coronary artery disease.
This invasive procedure involves threading a thin tube (catheter) through a blood vessel, usually in the groin or wrist, and guiding it to the heart. Contrast dye is injected through the catheter to visualize the heart’s arteries and chambers. Cardiac catheterization provides detailed information about blockages, narrowing of blood vessels, and overall heart function.
Techniques such as computed tomography (CT) scans, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and nuclear imaging can be utilized to obtain detailed images of the heart’s structure and provide information about blood flow and other abnormalities.
What is an Interventional Cardiologist?
An interventional cardiologist has undergone additional specialized training in interventional cardiology, which focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular diseases using minimally invasive procedures. Interventional cardiologists use catheter-based techniques to access the heart and blood vessels through small incisions rather than through open heart surgery.
These doctors are highly skilled in performing angioplasty, stenting, and other catheter-based interventions to treat blocked or narrowed arteries, repair heart valves, or correct structural heart defects. They use imaging techniques, such as fluoroscopy or echocardiography, to guide them throughout procedures and visualize the heart and other structures.
What Are The Different Types of Interventional Cardiology Procedures?
Interventional cardiologists perform the following cardiology procedures:
Coronary Artery Intervention and Stenting
Coronary artery intervention treats narrowing of blockages in the coronary arteries, which supply blood to the heart. The cardiologist inserts a catheter into the affected artery and locates the blockage. Through the catheter, they insert a small balloon and inflate it to widen the space within the artery. Next, the doctor places a stent, which is a small mesh tube, to provide structural support and prevent the artery from narrowing again.
Coronary artery stenting helps restore blood flow to the heart and alleviate symptoms of coronary heart disease, and reduces the risk of complications associated with it.
Coronary atherectomy is a procedure performed to remove plaque buildup from the walls of the coronary arteries and treat arterial blockages. The cardiologist uses a specialized catheter with a sharp blade, laser, or rotating device. The tool allows the doctor to gently remove or break up plaque in arteries, ease pain, and improve blood flow to the heart.
Minimally Invasive Aortic Aneurysm Repair
Minimally invasive aortic aneurysm repair treats an aortic aneurysm, which is a bulge or weakened area in the wall of the aorta, the main artery that carries blood from the heart to the rest of the body. To carry out the procedure, the cardiologist inserts a catheter into an artery in the groin. They then thread it up to the aneurysm. Once located, the doctor places a stent in the dilated aorta. This seals off the aneurysm and prevents further growth or a rupture.
Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement
Aortic valve replacement is performed to replace a diseased or malfunctioning aortic valve that no longer opens with an artificial valve. The cardiologist uses a catheter to locate the diseased heart valve. Once the tube is in position, the Medtronic TAVR heart valve will be carefully positioned within the diseased valve. The new valve will start functioning immediately, improving blood flow and alleviating symptoms, which include chest pain, shortness of breath, and dizziness or fainting.
As impressive these procedures are, these are just some of the most commonly performed by interventional cardiologists.
What Are Other Methods Cardiologists Use to Help Improve Heart Health?
Heart doctors are not only about surgical procedures. They provide comprehensive care, and your treatment plan may include some of the following:
Cardiologists prescribe and manage medications to control various cardiovascular conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart failure, and arrhythmia’s. Medications may include blood thinners, beta-blockers, ACE inhibitors, statins, and anti-arrhythmic drugs, among others.
Cardiologists emphasize the importance of adopting healthy lifestyle habits to improve heart health. This may include recommendations for a heart-healthy diet low in saturated and trans fats, sodium, and added sugars, while emphasizing fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. They also promote regular physical activity, weight management, smoking cessation, and stress reduction techniques.
Cardiac rehabilitation programs, supervised by cardiologists and a team of healthcare professionals, are designed to support individuals recovering from heart conditions or procedures. These programs combine exercise training, education, counseling, and support to help patients regain strength, improve cardiovascular fitness, and adopt healthy lifestyle habits.
Risk Assessment and Prevention
Cardiologists perform risk assessments to identify individuals at risk of developing heart disease. They evaluate factors such as family history, cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and lifestyle habits to determine a personalized prevention plan. This may involve monitoring and managing risk factors, such as conducting regular blood pressure checks, cholesterol screenings, and diabetes management.
Cardiologists play a crucial role in educating patients about their specific heart condition, treatment options, and the importance of medication adherence and lifestyle modifications. They empower patients with knowledge and resources to actively participate in managing their heart health.
Cardiovascular diseases tend to be chronic. Heart doctors may utilize various monitoring techniques, such as ambulatory electrocardiography (Holter monitoring), event recorders, or implantable loop recorders, to assess heart rhythms and monitor patients with suspected or known heart rhythm disorders over an extended period.
How Do I Choose The Best Cardiologist For Me?
If you are interested in minimally invasive heart procedures, you should search for an interventional cardiologist in your area or ask for a referral from your primary care doctor. Minimally invasive procedures offer the advantages of quicker recovery times, less pain, and reduced risks compared to traditional open-heart surgery.
Here are some of the important considerations for landing the best interventional heart doctor:
Check Your Insurance Coverage Terms
Check whether the cardiologist or cardiology center accepts your insurance plan, which can help lower your healthcare costs. Heart procedures can be very expensive and going with an out of network cardiologist will likely result in you having to pay for treatments yourself.
Check the Doctor’s Credentials
Once you have a list of potential cardiologists, research their credentials and experience. Look for board certification in cardiology and interventional cardiology, as well as additional certifications or specialized training. Consider their years of experience, the number of procedures they have performed, and their expertise in treating your specific condition.
Check Their Hospital Affiliations
Take into account the hospitals or medical centers where the cardiologists perform surgery, and research their technology, resources, and quality of care. One such hospital in Boca Raton is Boca Raton Regional Hospital, which is well-regarded for its high standard in cardiovascular care.
Assess Your Comfort Level
It is also important to find a cardiologist who you feel comfortable with. You should feel free to ask questions and discuss your concerns with the doctor. You should also feel comfortable with the cardiologist’s office staff, and see them as highly professional in their conduct.
There are many things that can make you feel uncomfortable when visiting a physician’s clinic – from poor hygiene to poor scheduling management – these are all indicators of a badly run office that reflects on the physician. Consider these things when selecting a heart doctor.
Choosing the right cardiologist and cardiology center is crucial for managing your heart health effectively. By making an informed decision, you can ensure you receive the highest quality care and achieve the best possible outcomes for your cardiovascular health. Remember, you only have one heart – and a healthy heart leads to a healthier life.
Top Interventional Cardiologists in Boca Raton, FL
Our interventional cardiologists at Advanced Heart and Vascular Institute are highly credentialed, board-certified, and fellowship trained to provide the most cutting-edge, minimally invasive heart procedures for patients. We focus on restoring normal blood flow in your body, and we do this by creating the least amount of disturbance.
We are also proud to offer concierge cardiology services, which allow us to offer higher quality 24/7 concierge cardiology services for patients who pay a flat-rate annual retainer. This healthcare model is ideal for patients with multiple cardiac conditions who require close monitoring.
Our clinic offers state-of-the-art diagnostic procedures and innovative minimally invasive treatments to improve heart health. Don’t wait—take a proactive step towards a healthier heart. Call our office today at (561) 235-5621, or use our online request form to make an appointment. We make it easy for our patients to receive care, and accept almost all types of insurance.