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Cardiology 101: Who Is A Cardiologist And When Should You See One?

Dr. Tariq Malik

3 min read

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The Greek root word kardia in ‘Cardiologist’ means ‘heart’, hence a cardiologist is ‘someone who studies the heart’. However, aside from the heart, a cardiologist is also an expert on the entire circulatory system, including arteries and veins.

Who is a Cardiologist?

A cardiologist is a doctor of Internal Medicine who not only specializes in the early detection, diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular (the heart and blood vessels) diseases and conditions, but also focuses on preventing their occurrence through regular checkups, tests, and recommends lifestyle changes, since many heart problems are both chronic and long-term.

What Conditions Do Cardiologists Treat?

Along with helping patients who have previously had a heart attack or heart failure, cardiologists also provide advice on heart surgery, heart catheterization, angioplasty and stinting. Other conditions that cardiologists treat include:

  • Atherosclerosis
  • Atrial fibrillation
  • Arrhythmia’s
  • Congenital, Coronary and Congestive heart disease
  • High blood pressure and cholesterol
  • Pericarditis
  • Ventricular tachycardia

What Kinds of Tests Do Cardiologists Perform?

Some diagnostic tests performed by cardiologists include, but are not limited to:

  • Echo-cardiogram:

To measure the rate of blood pumped, detect cardiac inflammation (pericarditis) and identify abnormalities or defects of the valves.

  • Ambulatory ECG:

To record heart rhythms during exercise.

  • Cardiac Catheterisation:

To check heart function and electrical system and relieve coronary or artery blockage.

  • Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG):

To Record the electrical Activity of the heart.

  • Stress Test:

To measure the heart’s performance and limitations during exercise and at rest.

  • Nuclear Cardiology:

To study cardiovascular disorders and diseases-without requiring insertion or incisions-through nuclear imaging techniques. If you need to get a heart related diagnosis you should contact a cardiologist in Karachi as soon as possible.

Can Cardiologists Perform Surgery?

Unlike a Cardiovascular Surgeon who is ‘surgery specialist’, a Cardiologist is a ‘medical specialist’ whose job is to detect heart problems and coronary artery conditions, abnormal heart rhythms and congenital heart defects through various tests-such as biopsies and echo-cardiograms-and treat with medication, diet adjustments and non-surgical procedures to unblock arteries and regulate heartbeat.

Cardiologists cannot perform surgery aside from minor procedures such as Cardiac Catheterizations and pacemaker insertion, while some Interventional Cardiologists can also perform Angioplasties, Stinting and Valvuloplasties.

However, most Cardiologists refer patients to Cardiovascular surgeons for complex surgery, such as a bypass, heart transplant or heart defect correction.

What Can a Cardiologist Specialize in?

All cardiologists are Clinical Cardiologists who may specialize in the following fields:

  • Pediatric Cardiology:

Focuses on heart problems in children

  • Adult Cardiology:

Exclusively for treatment of adult heart problems such as ‘Adult Congenital Heart Disease (ACHD).’

  • Electrophysiology:

Focuses on the treatment and correction of heart rhythm disorders.

When Should You Visit a Cardiologist?

It is necessary to see a cardiologist if you:

1. Experience Chest Discomfort

Chest pain can occur due to mutliple reasons, many of which can be minor like heartburn. Nevertheless, it’s always better to be on the safe side and get checked by a physician or better yet a cardiologost to rule out heart-problems completely.

2. Are a Smoker

Regardless of if you are a smoker now or were in the past, you have an increased risk of heart disease. The lining of your arteries can be damaged by smoking because it facilitates the building up of plaque in your arteries that can lead to potential blockages.

3. Have High Blood Pressure

The force that arteries endure when blood passes through them is called blood pressure.When this pressure is too high for an elongated period, these arteries can become narrower.

4. Have Diabetes

Diabetics have high glucose levels in their blood which can lead not only to damaged blood vessels, but also to damage in nerves that control the heart.

Furthermore, people with Type 2 diabetes are more likely to suffer from additional risk factors like high blood pressure, high cholesterol and obesity.

5. Have High Cholesterol

Your body makes both good (HDL) and bad (LDL) cholestrol. LDL causes plaque build-up in the arteries and HDL has to make sure that doesn’t happen by carrying it away to be eliminated. Thus, if there is an imbalance between the two, arterial health can be negatively impacted.

6. Have a Family History of Heart Disease

According to reasearch, genetics greatly determine whether you develop a heart disease; especially if a first-degree relative of yours suffers from the disease. Moreover, other conditions that become reasons for heart problems like high blood pressure or diabetes might be genetic as well.

7. Have Preeclampsia

If a pregnant woman develops high blood pressure, the condition is termed Preeclampsia. This condition increases the risk of heart disease by 4 times.

8. Have Gum Disease

Inflammation caused by gum disease is a huge threat to the heart. Some diseases like periodontitis also produce harmful bacteria. When this bacteria makes its way into the blood stream, the resulting inflammation can occur in other parts of the body.

9. Experience Leg Pains or Foot Swelling

Pains in the legs, specifically those associated with activity could indicate peripheral artery disease (PAD). PAD has been found to be linked with not only amputations and disabilities, but also with stroke and heart attack.

10. Are over 40 and starting a new exercise program.

It can be risky to start a new exercise program after you exceed a certain age limit. To ensure that the exercise does not prove detrimental for your heart, one should consult a cardiologist.

If you experience shortness of breath, dizziness, chest pains, or changes in heart rate or rhythm, refer to a specialist immediately as they may be symptoms of a serious heart condition.

Cardiologists should also be visited in order to avoid heart problems altogether and maintain a healthy lifestyle. You can Book an Appointments with a top Cardiologist in Islamabad, Multan and Karachi through oladoc.com. Or call our helpline at 042-3890-0939 for assistance to find the RIGHT Doctor for your cardiac needs.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are intended to raise awareness about common health issues and should not be viewed as sound medical advice for your specific condition. You should always consult with a licensed medical practitioner prior to following any suggestions outlined in this article or adopting any treatment protocol based on the contents of this article.

Dr. Tariq Malik
Dr. Tariq Malik - Author Prof. Dr. Tariq Mahmood Malik is a cardiologist of international stature and fame. He returned to Pakistan at the peak of his career in 1993 and is now in full time practice of Cardiology and internal Medicine. You can seek appointment with him through oladoc.

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