Chances are at some point you’ve thought about whether or not to see a cardiologist. With statistics like heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States, it has surely crossed your mind.
General cardiologists are practitioners that focus on the heart. If you are at risk for heart disease, a routine check-up with this specialized physician can help you to be on top of your heart health.
12 Reasons to Schedule a Visit With a Cardiologist
1. Your primary care physician has referred you to a cardiologist. Maybe your family doctor spots a red flag during your exam and wants to have your heart checked a little more closely. Or it could be that your personal or family history warrants an exam by a physician who focuses on the heart. If your primary care physician recommends you see a cardiologist, do it!
Read: How to Find and Choose a Cardiologist
2. Family history. Heart disease can have a strong genetic component. Do some digging, chart your family tree, and ask questions of your family members about their health history. If you notice a pattern of heart disease, including high cholesterol and high blood pressure, take action and get checked by a cardiologist.
3. High Blood Pressure. Regular blood pressure checks should occur from age 20 on. If your blood pressure is trending up, or maybe it’s always been high, it is crucial that you get it under control. High blood pressure is a strong risk factor for both heart disease and stroke, and making sure that you “know your numbers” is important in preventing a cardiac event.
4. High Cholesterol. Increased cholesterol does not cause symptoms and can be difficult to manage. As one of the most significant risk factors for heart disease, getting cholesterol numbers under control is of utmost importance. You can find more information on healthy cholesterol levels here.
5. History of Preeclampsia. According to the Preeclampsia Foundation, research has shown that women who have had a history of preeclampsia—high blood pressure during pregnancy or in the postpartum period—have double the risk of heart disease. The risk may be even higher for those that deliver preterm babies or suffer from this condition more than once. If you had preeclampsia during any of your pregnancies, it is best to get your heart checked.
6. Your heart age is higher than your actual age. Do you know your overall risk for heart disease? If the answer is no, take a second and find out right now.
Take our free heart risk profiler to find out!
7. History of Smoking. Smoking at any time in your life raises the risk of developing heart disease. If you are or have been a smoker, making an appointment with a cardiologist may not be a bad idea.
8. You've been diagnosed with diabetes. Adults with diabetes are two to four times more likely to have heart disease than those adults without diabetes. The American Heart Association lists diabetes as one of seven major controllable risk factors of heart disease. Take action and work toward controlling it.
9. Congenital Heart Disease in Childhood. One common misconception of those that were born with congenital heart disease (CHD) is that once it is fixed as a child, continued care is not needed. This is not true. In fact, the quality of life of those adults that had CHD surgery as a child is significantly increased by having a routine check-up with a specialized cardiologist during adulthood.
10. Starting a New Exercise Routine. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that you see a doctor before engaging in moderate to high intensity exercise if you currently maintain an inactive lifestyle or if you have heart disease, kidney disease or type 1 or type 2 diabetes. A cardiologist can check for any underlying heart condition that you may not be aware of and ensure you do not partake in an exercise program that’s too intense for your lifestyle.
11. Gum Disease. There is a link between your gum health and your heart health. Bacteria found in gum disease can travel through the body and cause infection in heart valves and inflammation in heart vessels. In addition to seeing a cardiologist, prioritize practicing good oral hygiene and seeing your dentist every 6 months for a check-up and cleaning.
12. You’re a Cancer Patient or Survivor. Cardio-oncologists (cardiologists that specialize in caring for cancer patients) recommend all cancer patients and survivors make an appointment to have their heart checked. This is because certain cancer treatments can damage the heart or put strain on the heart muscles and blood vessels. These cardiac problems do not impact every cancer patient, but it is better to play it safe and identify if you are at risk or not.
You may be surprised to see that chest pain is not on our list. That is because if you are experiencing new and persistent chest pain, the answer is always to call 911. Don’t delay seeking treatment.
Of course while getting your heart checked by a cardiologist is important, so is making lifestyle changes to increase heart health. Many of the above risk factors for heart disease can be modified with a few simple changes. It is never too late to come up with a game plan for leading a healthier life!