A cardiologist is a doctor who specializes in treating diseases of the cardiovascular system — mainly the heart and blood vessels. In order to become a cardiologist, a physician must attend four years of medical school and an additional six to eight years of internal medicine and specialized cardiology training.

Common diseases and health issues a cardiologist treats includes: heart and vascular disease, congenital heart defects, heart attacks, coronary artery disease, heart arrhythmia and heart failure

What does a cardiologist do?

A cardiologist treats patients within a hospital, university or private practice. There is a difference between a cardiologist and a cardiac surgeon. A cardiac (or cardiothoracic) surgeon is a physician who performs surgery on the heart and blood vessels. In most cases, a cardiologist will send a patient to a cardiac surgeon for complex surgical procedures

When should you see a cardiologist?

In the U.S., heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. Coronary heart disease is the most common type of heart disease. Every year, more than 700,000 Americans experience a heart attack

As heart disease is one of the major health issues in the U.S., it’s important to know when to see a cardiologist. Here are some possible reasons to see a cardiologist

  • Recommendation from another physician — Your doctor may tell you that you need to see a cardiologist. Don’t put it off, take their referral seriously
  • Heart pain, chest pain or chest tightness — Chest tightness refers to a heaviness or ache in the chest. Chest tightness can indicate coronary heart disease, congestive heart failure, or pericarditis (swelling of a membrane that surrounds the heart)
  • Family history of heart disease — If someone in your family has experienced heart disease or had a heart attack, you need to be aware of the risk factors and might need to talk to a cardiologist
  • Starting a new exercise program, especially after age 40 — People who engage moderate or intense physical activity have a slightly increased risk of heart attack or cardiac complications

What questions should you ask a cardiologist?

Heart disease is preventable. Risk factors that contribute to heart disease — such as high blood pressure and total high cholesterol — can be managed with medication and lifestyle changes

Here are some questions to ask a cardiologist

  • What is my risk for having a heart attack? — It’s crucial to know which factors could put you at risk for a heart attack or stroke, such as smoking, high blood pressure, being overweight, diabetes or an unhealthy diet
  • How does my family history affect my risk of heart disease? — Family history can play a role in your risk of coronary heart disease, heart attack or stroke
  • What should I do to prevent or lower my risk of heart disease? — A cardiologist can help you come up with a plan to improve your heart health and reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease

What does a cardiologist do on your first visit?

Not everyone knows what to expect at a cardiology consultation. Your cardiologist will ask you about your family history and give you a physical exam. A cardiologist may have you undergo more tests, or refer you to a cardiothoracic surgeon or specialist. Remember to bring a list of the medications you’re currently taking and write down any questions you have before the visit

Do I need a referral to see a cardiologist?

This may depend on what type of health insurance you have. Some health insurance plans allow you to see a cardiologist or other specialist without getting a referral from your primary physician, while other health insurance programs do require that you obtain a referral before visiting a cardiologist

Expert cardiologists in the Denver area

At Denver Heart, highly trained cardiologists and cardiac specialists are here to provide excellent care and support for patients in Denver and throughout the Rocky Mountain region. Our cardiologists in Denver can answer any questions or concerns you have about treating and preventing heart disease.