About Cardiologist Speciality
A cardiologist is a trained medical professional who diagnoses and treats diseases of the heart and the cardiovascular system. A cardiologist focuses on preventative medicine to stabilise and reverse any progression of heart disease because many heart problems are chronic long-term conditions.
The medical field of cardiology involves the study, research, diagnosis, and management of health conditions that may affect the cardiovascular system i.e. the heart, arteries and veins.
In order to become a cardiologist, one must undergo several years of training including four years of medical college, three years of general internal medicine training and three or more years in specialized cardiology training. Following this, aspiring cardiologists undergo up to five years of training in fellowship programs focused on the area of cardiology in which they wish to practice. Colleges offer cardiology fellowship programs in a variety of specializations, such as cardiovascular diseases, interventional cardiology and heart failure.
When to see a cardiologist?
Certain signs and symptoms may prompt patients to seek services of a cardiologist which includes:
- Chest discomfort which often indicates narrowed arteries providing blood to the heart
- Rhythm disturbances which may lead to missed heartbeats
- Shortness of breath which may be because of congestive heart failure or valve problems
- A sudden cardiac arrest which may require emergency services of a cardiologist
Different kinds of cardiologists
The field of cardiology has several subspecialties and a patient’s particular heart problem indicated which type of cardiologist is needed. Some of the subspecialties of cardiology include:
Cardiovascular surgeons: They perform coronary bypass surgery or other surgical procedures
Invasive cardiologists: They use catheters to perform angiograms, which can specify narrowed arteries around the heart
Preventive cardiologists: They help patients with lifestyle issues, such as weight, exercise or smoking in order to prevent cardiac events.
What conditions does a cardiologist normally treat?
Coronary Artery Disease
Coronary artery disease occurs when primary blood vessels that supply blood, oxygen and nutrients to your heart become damaged. Cholesterol containing deposits and inflammations are reasons behind coronary artery disease.
Symptoms of coronary artery disease
When cholesterol deposits increase, it leads to blocked arteries resulting in chest pain (angina) or shortness of breath. A complete blockage can cause heart attack. Fatty deposits in the arteries are the result of smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes or lethargic lifestyle.
Treatment of coronary artery disease
A cardiologist may order lifestyle changes to treat coronary artery disease along with Cholesterol-modifying medications, daily aspirin or other blood thinner, beta blockers to reduce the risk of future attacks and ACE inhibitors and angiotensin II receptor blockers.
Heart Attack (Myocardial Infarction)
A heart attack occurs when blood flow to the heart is blocked by a build-up of fat, cholesterol and other substances, which form a plaque in the arteries that feed the heart. The blocked blood flow can destroy part of the heart muscle. A heart attack is also referred to as myocardial infarction.
Symptoms of Heart attack (Myocardial Infarction)
Common symptoms of a heart attack include aching sensation in your chest or arms that may spread to your neck, jaw or back, heartburn or abdominal pain, shortness of breath, cold sweat or sudden dizziness.
Treatment of Heart attack (Myocardial Infarction)
A cardiologist may prescribe certain medications to treat a heart attack such as aspirin, thrombolytic drug, anti-platelets, pain reliever such as morphine, nitroglycerin to ease chest pain, beta blockers and ACE inhibitors.
Heart failure, also known as congestive heart failure occurs when the heart muscle doesn't pump blood properly. High blood pressure, coronary artery disease are the main reasons behind heart not pumping blood.
Symptoms of Heart Failure
Symptoms may include shortness of breath, legs inflammation, irregular heartbeat, cough or wheezing with white or pink blood-tinged phlegm, increased urination at night, lack of appetite, sudden shortness of breath, chest pain etc.
Treatment of Heart Failure
A cardiologist may prescribe certain combinations of medications to treat heart failure which includes Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, Beta blockers, Diuretics, Aldosterone antagonists, Inotropes and Digoxin.
Heart Rhythm Problems (Arrhythmia)
Heart rhythm problems, also known as arrhythmias occur when the electrical impulses that coordinate heartbeats function inappropriately causing the heart to beat irregularly.
Symptoms of Heart rhythm problems (Arrhythmia)
Common arrhythmia symptoms may include racing heartbeat, slow heartbeat, shortness of breath, dizziness, near fainting, sweating, fluttering in your chest.
Treatment of Heart rhythm problems (Arrhythmia)
In order to treat arrhythmias, a cardiologist may order vagal manoeuvres to stop an arrhythmia that begins above the lower half of your heart prescribed medication to control your heart rate delivering shock to the heart (cardioversion) to normalise electrical impulses and catheter ablation. A cardiologist may also use pacemaker implantation or Implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) for the treatment of heart rhythm problems.
Heart Valve Disease
A heart has four valves that keep blood flowing in the right direction. In a heart valve disease, one or more of the valves in the heart function inappropriately.
Symptoms of Heart valve disease
Signs and symptoms of heart valve disease include heart murmur, shortness of breath, fainting, irregular heartbeat, inflamed feet or ankles.
Treatment of Heart valve disease
After a thorough monitoring, a cardiologist may order heart valve surgery to repair or replace the diseased heart valve. Surgical options include heart valve repair or heart valve replacement.
Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are a group of disorders of the heart and blood vessels which may include coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, peripheral arterial disease, rheumatic heart disease, congenital heart disease etc.
Symptoms of cardiovascular diseases
Symptoms of cardiovascular diseases include discomfort in the centre of the chest and pain in the arms, the left shoulder, elbows, jaw, or back.
Treatment of cardiovascular diseases
A cardiologist may prescribe aspirin, beta-blockers, angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors and statins for the treatment of cardiovascular diseases. Surgical options to treat cardiovascular diseases include coronary artery bypass, balloon angioplasty, valve repair and replacement, heart transplantation or artificial heart operations.
Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)
Hypertension is a condition in which your blood pressure increases to unhealthy levels. High Blood Pressure an increase your chances of developing heart disease, a stroke and other serious conditions.
Symptoms of Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)
Symptoms of hypertension include headaches, shortness of breath, dizziness, chest pain, visual changes etc.
Treatment of Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)
A cardiologist may prescribe medication and suggest healthy lifestyle changes to treat hypertension and prevent health issues including heart attack and stroke.
A stroke is an emergency medical condition in which blood supply to part of your brain is interrupted or alarmingly reduced depriving brain of oxygen and nutrients. Ischemic stroke and Haemorrhagic stroke are two types of strokes.
Symptoms of stroke
Signs and symptoms of stroke include difficulty speaking and understanding, numbness of the face, arm or leg, blurry vision, headache or trouble walking.
Treatment of stroke
To treat an ischemic stroke, a cardiologist may prescribe Aspirin and an injection of a recombinant tissue plasminogen activator (TPA) to restore blood flow to your brain. In order to treat a haemorrhagic stroke, a cardiologist may surgically repair blood vessels.
Angina (Chest pain)
Angina is referred to as chest pain caused by reduced blood flow to the heart muscle. Also known as angina pectoris, it can be described as squeezing, pressure, heaviness, tightness or pain in your chest.
Symptoms of Angina (Chest Pain)
Symptoms include chest pain, pain in your arms, neck, jaw, shoulder or back, shortness of breath, fatigue, dizziness and so on.
Treatment of Angina (Chest Pain)
A cardiologist may prescribe medications such as nitrates, aspirin, clot-preventing drugs like clopidogrel, prasugrel, beta blockers, statins, or calcium channel blockers to treat angina.
Cardiomyopathy is a medical condition where heart muscle function abnormally. There are three types of cardiomyopathy- dilated, hypertrophic and restrictive. Cardiomyopathy makes it difficult for your heart to supply blood to the rest of the body which may result in heart failure.
Symptoms of Cardiomyopathy
Symptoms include Breathlessness, inflamed legs, abdomen bloating, irregular heartbeats, dizziness, fatigue etc.
Treatment of Cardiomyopathy
A cardiologist may prescribe medications and recommend an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) to treat cardiomyopathy.
Congenital Heart Disease
Congenital heart disease refers to a heart condition or defect that develops in the womb, before a child is born.
Symptoms of Congenital Heart Disease
Symptoms include abnormal heart rhythms, a bluish tint to the skin, shortness of breath, dizziness, swelling of body tissue etc.
Treatment of Congenital Heart Disease
Treatments recommended by a cardiologist include periodic checkups, medications, pacemaker implantation, catheterization, open-heart surgery or a heart transplant.
Atherosclerosis occurs when blood vessels supplying oxygen and nutrients through heart to rest of the body become stiff resulting in restriction of blood flow to the organs.
Symptoms of Atherosclerosis
Symptoms may include chest pain, sudden numbness or weakness in your arms or legs, slurred speech, temporary loss of vision, leg pain when walking, high blood pressure etc.
Treatment of Atherosclerosis
A cardiologist may prescribe certain medications to treat atherosclerosis such as cholesterol medicines, anti-platelet medications, beta blockers, angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, diuretics etc. Additionally, the cardiologist may treat atherosclerosis using surgical procedures such as angioplasty and stent placement, endarterectomy, fibrinolytic therapy and bypass surgery.
Atrial Fibrillation is an abnormal heart rate that can increase your risk of stroke, heart failure and other heart-related complications.
Symptoms of Atrial Fibrillation
Symptoms of atrial fibrillation may include heart palpitations, shortness of breath, fatigue, dizziness and weakness.
Treatment of Atrial Fibrillation
In order to treat atrial fibrillation, a cardiologist may use cardioversion procedure to reset heart rate and rhythm. Cardioversion can be performed in two ways: electrical cardioversion and cardioversion with drugs.
An atheroma is an abnormal inflammatory accumulation of macrophage white blood cells within the walls of arteries.
Symptoms of Atheroma
Symptoms of an atheroma include chest pain, breathlessness, abdominal pain, nausea etc.
Treatment of Atheroma
A cardiologist may prescribe beta blockers and an ACE inhibitor for the treatment of atheroma.
Aortic Stenosis occurs when the heart's aortic valve narrows. This narrowing obstructs blood flow from your heart leading to its straining to pump blood to your body.
Symptoms of Aortic Stenosis
Symptoms include chest pain, fainting with exertion, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, and heart murmur. Unfortunately, there are no medicines that can reverse aortic stenosis.
Treatment of Aortic Stenosis
A cardiologist may recommend valve repair to treat aortic stenosis. Some of the procedures include balloon valvuloplasty, aortic valve replacement, transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) and surgical valvuloplasty.
Sudden Cardiac Arrest
Sudden Cardiac Arrest refers to an unexpected loss of heart function, breathing and consciousness. It results from an electrical disturbance that interferes with the heart’s functionality leading to blocked blood flow to the rest of your body.
Symptoms of Sudden Cardiac Arrest
Symptoms include sudden collapse, no pulse or breathing, loss of consciousness.
Treatment of Sudden Cardiac Arrest
An Immediate cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is the only way to treat sudden cardiac arrest followed by a visit to cardiologist.
Hypotension (Low Blood Pressure)
Hypotension (Low Blood Pressure) is a medical condition where blood pressure in your arteries is abnormally low.
Symptoms of Hypotension (Low Blood Pressure)
Low blood pressure may be indicated by light-headedness, fainting, lack of concentration, blurred vision, depression, shallow breathing, and thirst.
Treatment of Hypotension (Low Blood Pressure)
A cardiologist may prescribe the drug fludrocortisone or midodrine to raise standing blood pressure levels.
Pericarditis is swelling and irritation of the pericardium, the thin sac-like membrane surrounding your heart.
Symptoms of Pericarditis
Symptoms include sharp chest pain, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, leg inflammation, weakness etc.
Treatment of Pericarditis
A cardiologist may prescribe over-the-counter pain relievers such as aspirin or ibuprofen, colchicines or corticosteroids to treat pericarditis.
Tachycardia is a type of heart rhythm disorder in which the heart beats faster than normal while at rest. Common types of tachycardia include atrial fibrillation, atrial flutter, supraventricular tachycardia, ventricular fibrillation and ventricular tachycardia.
Symptoms of Tachycardia
Symptoms include shortness of breath, light-headedness, heart palpitations, chest pain, fainting etc.
Treatment of Tachycardia
A cardiologist may use vagal manoeuvres, anti-arrhythmic medication or cardioversion procedure to treat tachycardia.
Peripheral Artery Disease
Peripheral Artery Disease is a common heart problem in which narrowed arteries reduce blood flow to your limbs. In a peripheral artery disease, usually your legs don’t receive enough blood flow.
Symptoms of Peripheral Artery Disease
Symptoms include painful cramping in your hip, thigh or calf muscles, leg numbness or weakness, sores on your toes, feet or legs, slower hair growth on your feet and legs etc.
Treatment of Peripheral Artery Disease
A cardiologist may prescribe cholesterol-lowering drugs, high blood pressure medicines, blood sugar control medicines, medications to prevent blood clots or symptom-relief medications to treat peripheral artery disease.
Endocarditis is an infection of the inner lining of your heart. Endocarditis usually occurs when bacteria or other germs from another part of your body, such as your mouth, spread through your bloodstream and attach to damaged areas in your heart.
Symptoms of Endocarditis
Symptoms include fever and chills, aching joints and muscles, heart murmur, shortness of breath, night sweats, unexplained weight loss, blood in your urine etc.
Treatment of Endocarditis
A cardiologist may prescribe high doses of intravenous (IV) antibiotics to fight the infection or in severe cases, surgery to treat persistent infections or to replace a damaged valve.
Rheumatic Fever is an inflammatory disease that can develop as a complication of poorly treated strep throat or scarlet fever. Rheumatic fever can cause permanent damage to the heart, including damaged heart valves and heart failure.
Symptoms of Rheumatic Fever
Symptoms include painful and tender joints, high fever, hot or swollen joints, painless bumps beneath the skin, heart murmur, chest pain etc.
Treatment of Rheumatic Fever
A cardiologist may prescribe antibiotic to eliminate remaining strep bacteria, aspirin to reduce inflammation and anticonvulsant for severe involuntary movements.
Myocarditis is a disease characterised by inflammation of the middle layer of the heart wall. Myocarditis can affect both the heart's muscle cells and the heart's electrical system.
Symptoms of Myocarditis
Symptoms include abnormal heart rhythms, chest pain, shortness of breath, Fluid retention with swelling of your legs, ankles and feet, fatigue etc.
Treatment of Myocarditis
A cardiologist may prescribe angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs), beta blockers and diuretics in order to treat myocarditis.
Vasovagal Syncope occurs when you faint because your body overreacts to certain triggers, such as the sight of blood or extreme emotional distress. The vasovagal syncope trigger causes your heart rate and blood pressure to drop suddenly.
Symptoms of Vasovagal Syncope
Symptoms include pale skin, light-headedness, blurred or narrowed vision, nausea, cold, clammy sweat, yawning etc.
Treatment of Vasovagal Syncope
A cardiologist may prescribe a drug called fludrocortisone acetate that's normally used to treat low blood pressure may be helpful in preventing vasovagal syncope along with therapies and surgery.
Ventricular Septal Defect
A ventricular septal defect refers to a hole in the heart and s a common heart defect that's present at birth. The hole occurs in the wall that separates the heart's septum and allows blood to pass from the left to the right side of the heart.
Symptoms of Ventricular Septal Defect
Symptoms include breathlessness, poor eating, easy tiring etc.
Treatment of Ventricular Septal Defect
A cardiologist may prescribe medications for ventricular septal defect to increase the strength of the heart's contractions, decrease the amount of fluid in circulation (digoxin) and in the lungs (diuretics) and keep the heartbeat regular (beta blockers).
Bradycardia is a slower than normal heart rate i.e. fewer than 60 beats a minute. Bradycardia can become dangerous if the heart doesn't pump enough oxygen-rich blood to the body.
Symptoms of Bradycardia
Symptoms include fainting, dizziness, weakness, shortness of breath, memory problems, easy tiring.
Treatment of Bradycardia
A cardiologist may recommend pacemaker implantation and changes in a number of medications to treat other heart conditions that can cause bradycardia.
Mitral Valve Prolapse
Mitral Valve Prolapse occurs when one of your heart’s valves doesn’t work properly. The flaps of the valve don’t close tightly. Most people who have the condition are born with it.
Symptoms of Mitral Valve Prolapse
Symptoms include irregular heartbeat, light-headedness, difficulty breathing, fatigue and chest pain.
Treatment of Mitral Valve Prolapse
A cardiologist may prescribe diuretics, beta blockers, anti-arrhythmic medication, aspirin and blood thinners to treat mitral valve prolapse.
An Aortic Aneurysm is an abnormal bulge that occurs in the wall of the major blood vessel (aorta) that carries blood from your heart to your body. Abdominal aortic aneurysms and thoracic aneurysm are two types of aneurysm.
Symptoms of Aortic Aneurysm
Symptoms include pain in the jaw, neck, upper back or chest and coughing, hoarseness or difficulty breathing.
Treatment of Aortic Aneurysm
A cardiologist may recommend surgery to treat both the forms of aneurysm.
Premature Ventricular Contractions
Premature ventricular contractions are abnormal heartbeats that begin in one of your heart's two lower pumping chambers (ventricles). These extra beats disrupt your regular heart rhythm, sometimes causing you to feel a flip-flop or skipped beat in your chest.
Symptoms of Premature Ventricular Contractions
Symptoms include flip-flops, fluttering, jumping, skipped beats and increased awareness of your heartbeat.
Treatment of Premature Ventricular Contractions
A cardiologist may prescribe Beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, or anti-arrhythmic drugs along with lifestyle changes to treat premature ventricular contractions.
Atrial Septal Defect
An Atrial Septal Defect is a congenital disease characterised by a hole in the wall between the two upper chambers of your heart (atria). Small atrial septal defects may close on their own during infancy or early childhood.
Symptoms of Atrial Septal Defect
Symptoms include shortness of breath, fatigue, swelling of legs, feet or abdomen, skipped beats, frequent lung infections etc.
Treatment of Atrial Septal Defect
A cardiologist may recommend surgery to treat an atrial septal defect such as cardiac catheterization or open-heart surgery. Medicines won't repair the hole, but they may be used to reduce some of the symptoms of an atrial septal defect.
Cardiomegaly (Enlarged Heart)
Cardiomegaly refers to an enlarged heart identified during a chest X-ray. You may develop an enlarged heart temporarily because of a stress on your body or underlying medical condition such as the weakening of the heart muscle, coronary artery disease, heart valve problems or abnormal heart rhythms.
Symptoms of Cardiomegaly
Symptoms include shortness of breath, arrhythmia and swelling.
Treatment of Cardiomegaly
If cardiomyopathy is because of a heart condition, a cardiologist may prescribe diuretics, angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs), beta blockers, anticoagulants and anti-arrhythmics.
Supraventricular Tachycardia refers to an abnormally fast heart rate of over 100 heartbeats a minute. Episodes of supraventricular tachycardia an last for seconds, minutes, hours or even days, in rare cases.
Symptoms of Supraventricular Tachycardia
Symptoms include heart pounding in the chest, light-headedness, fainting, shortness of breath, chest pain etc.
Treatment of Supraventricular Tachycardia
A cardiologist may suggest valsalva manoeuvre to treat supraventricular tachycardia.
Long QT syndrome
Long QT syndrome is a heart rhythm disorder that can cause serious irregular heart rhythms. In long QT syndrome, your heart muscle takes longer than normal to recharge between beats.
Symptoms of Long QT syndrome
Symptoms include fainting, seizures or sudden death.
Treatment of Long QT syndrome
A cardiologist may prescribe beta blockers, anti-arrhythmic drug in combination with beta blockers, potassium supplements and fish oil supplements to treat Long QT syndrome.
Ventricular tachycardia is a heart rhythm disorder caused by abnormal electrical signals in the lower chambers of the heart.
Symptoms of Ventricular tachycardia
Symptoms include dizziness, shortness of breath, light-headedness, heart palpitations, angina and seizures.
Treatment of Ventricular tachycardia
A cardiologist may suggest catheter ablation procedure, an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) along with anti-arrhythmic medications for the treatment of ventricular tachycardia.
Atrial flutter is a type of heart rhythm disorder in which your heart's upper chambers (atria) beat too quickly. It is somewhat similar to atrial fibrillation.
Symptoms of Atrial flutter
Symptoms include fast heart rate, shortness of breath, fainting or pressure in the chest.
Treatment of Atrial flutter
A cardiologist may prescribe blood thinners to prevent clot formation in your arteries along with surgery (pacemaker implantation).
Pulmonary hypertension is a form of high blood pressure that affects the arteries in your lungs and the right side of your heart.
Symptoms of Pulmonary hypertension
Symptoms include shortness of breath, fainting spells, edema, heart palpitations, fatigue etc.
Treatment of Pulmonary hypertension
A cardiologist may prescribe blood vessel dilators, endothelin receptor antagonists, sildenafil and tadalafil, high-dose calcium channel blockers, soluble guanylate cyclase (SGC) stimulator, diuretics and anticoagulants for the treatment of pulmonary hypertension.
Marfan syndrome is an inherited disorder that affects connective tissue. This disease commonly affects the heart, eyes, blood vessels and skeleton.
Symptoms of Marfan syndrome
Marfan syndrome indications may include disproportionately long arms, legs and fingers, a breastbone that protrudes outward or dips inward, heart murmurs, an abnormally curved spine, flat feet etc.
Treatment of Marfan syndrome
When Marfan syndrome affects the heart, a cardiologist may recommend an operation to replace a portion of your aorta with a tube made of synthetic material along with blood pressure lowering drugs to help prevent the aorta from enlarging.
Hypertensive Heart Disease
Hypertensive Heart Disease is a group of disorders that include heart failure, ischemic heart disease and left ventricular hypertrophy.
Symptoms of Hypertensive Heart Disease
Symptoms include shortness of breath, swelling in the feet, ankles or abdomen, bloating, abnormal pulse, increased need to urinate at night etc.
Treatment of Hypertensive Heart Disease
A cardiologist may prescribe water pills to help lower blood pressure, nitrates to treat chest pain, statins to treat high cholesterol, beta-blockers to lower blood pressure and reduce the amount of oxygen used by the heart and aspirin to prevent blood clots in order to treat hypertensive heart disease.
An echocardiogram (ECG) is a primary diagnostic test used by a cardiologist to determine a patient's heart health. Additionally, a cardiologist may also interpret the results. They are also entitled to review reports of stress tests, and conduct cardiac catheterization tests.