Most patients think about seeing a doctor when they don’t feel well but may put it off, or they may wait for an annual physical with their family care doctor to ask questions about any physical pains or symptoms. But how severe should the symptoms be before you see a heart specialist (cardiologist)? How can you tell if someone you love should see a cardiologist?
Top 10 Reasons You May Want to See a Cardiologist:
- Physician recommendation – If your family-care doctor recommends you see a cardiologist, do it. Don’t put it off. You’ll regret it.
- Heart pain – This is pretty much a given. You can see a full list of heart disease symptoms below. If you have any doubts about whether or not you are experiencing a symptom, however, get checked out.
- Family history – If anyone in your family has or has had heart problems, you should be aware of heart disease symptoms and consider talking to a cardiologist about them.
- High total cholesterol - Total cholesterol is the sum of all the cholesterol in your blood. The higher your total cholesterol, the greater your risk for heart disease (a cholesterol level of 200 mg/dL or higher).
- High blood pressure – You have high blood pressure or a high systolic number. The systolic number on your blood pressure reading is the first number. (For example, if your reading is 120/80 (120 over 80), your systolic blood pressure is 120.)
- Are or were a smoker – Smoking is a huge risk factor for heart disease. It lowers the flow of oxygen to the heart and increases blood pressure, heart rate, and blood clotting as well as damages the cells lining the arteries.
- Diabetic – Unfortunately diabetes can contribute to heart disease. If you experience symptoms of heart problems and are diabetic, you should see a cardiologist.
- Difficult pregnancy, preeclampsia – Preeclampsia is often a hidden risk factor for heart disease. The two times a woman is most likely to develop heart disease is during pregnancy or post-menopause.
- Starting a new exercise program – You are over the age of 40 and starting a new exercise program. You may already be working with a doctor on being more active, but a cardiologist can check your heart health and recommend exercises that would be good for your heart.
- Gum disease – Believe it or not, gum disease can happen when the body is inflamed. Patients with swollen gums often have heart disease.
Heart Disease Symptoms
Many of us are familiar with the symptoms of heart diseases like heart attack or stroke. There are other symptoms of heart disease as well, however, to be aware of:
- Severe pressure, squeezing, pain or discomfort in the chest
- Pain or discomfort that spreads into the shoulders, neck, arms, or jaw
- Chest pain that becomes more intense
- Chest pain that isn’t relieved by rest
- Chest pain combined with the following symptoms:
- Sweating, cool, clammy skin, and/or paleness
- Shortness of breath
- Nausea or vomiting
- Dizziness or fainting
- Unexplained weakness or fatigue
- Rapid or irregular pulse
- Pain in the jaw, neck, upper back, and/or chest
- Hoarseness because of pressure on the vocal cords
- Difficulty swallowing
- Heart palpitations
- Low blood pressure
If you have any of the symptoms listed above or if your primary care doctor recommends you see a cardiologist, do it! Your heart is the most important muscle of your body, so take care of it.
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/