A referral to a cardiologist often creates enormous anxiety. This is because, knowing that the heart is our vital organ, we tend to think that we are developing a serious and irreversible disease.
It turns out that, precisely because of the importance of cardiovascular health for the well-being of all other systems, we should not even wait for a suspected heart problem to seek out this specialty.
Routinely consulting a cardiologist is important for early detection of very prevalent problems such as arrhythmias, murmurs and hypertension . In this text, we take some questions about when to look for this specialty and how to prepare for your consultation. Good reading!
What are the most common symptoms of heart disease?
You do not have to wait for a general practitioner to make an appointment with a cardiologist, let alone an illness. In the sequence, we present some signs and symptoms that you must always be aware of.
Tiredness at rest and shortness of breath at night
The feeling of tiredness even at rest and waking up at night with an immense sensation of difficulty in breathing are some of the classic symptoms of congestive heart failure . Poorly controlled hypertension over many years and heart valve dysfunctions can progress to CHF.
This disease indicates that there is a difficulty for the heart to pump blood, causing congestion of the vessels and accumulation of fluid in the lower limbs. In addition, swelling of the feet and legs can be noticed.
Dyspnea on small efforts
This is the technical name given to shortness of breath when doing ordinary day-to-day activities that did not usually cause discomfort, such as combing hair or sweeping under the bed.
Dyspnea on small exertion is a characteristic symptom of chronic obstructive-pulmonary disease (COPD), a disease that gradually evolves over years and is typical of smokers .
In it, the pulmonary alveoli are destroyed, making it so that the air that entered after an inspiration does not escape completely. Over time, the lungs are constantly filled with oxygen-poor air, so it takes a lot of effort to breathe.
Frequent chest pain or at specific times
Typical anginal pain, that which makes us think of the imminence of a heart attack, has an oppressive character, that is, it transmits a feeling of pressure. It usually appears in the center of the chest, but it can radiate to the arm, the apex of the stomach and the neck, and may be accompanied by excessive sweating and pallor.
Pain usually worsens with exertion and improves with rest and crises are short-lived. The infarction indicates that part of the heart is not being properly oxygenated and is undergoing ischemia (lack of oxygen). This can happen due to the obstruction of a coronary vessel due to the presence of fatty plaques.
When to see a cardiologist?
Even if you don’t have any of the above symptoms, you need to be aware of another very important factor: family history. If you have cases close to people with diabetes , hypertension or sudden death in the family, then consultation with the cardiologist becomes necessary and indispensable.
Doctors recommend that men do cardiac exams from the age of 45 and women at 50. If the patient has a family history favorable to the onset of heart disease, the age should be reduced to 30 years for men and 45 for women .
People who have a diagnosed disease (such as diabetes and high blood pressure ) or have had a heart problem, in turn, should visit the cardiologist periodically.
How to prevent heart disease?
Some heart diseases are congenital, meaning you are born with changes. This is the case with some types of breath, valve defects and persistence of structures that should have regressed in childhood. However, this is not the case for the majority of the population.
The most prevalent heart diseases are almost always linked to poor eating habits and a sedentary lifestyle . Today, it is very evident that a healthy lifestyle can prevent most of these problems.
Another way to prevent complications such as congestive heart failure and infarction is by making good control of underlying diseases using drugs. Generally, patients who complicate are those who have atheromatous plaque (fat) or hypertension, but spend years with the disease uncontrolled because they do not get the proper treatment.
How to prepare for the consultation with a cardiologist?
There is no reason to fear: the consultation with the cardiologist is like any other. The doctor asks a series of questions and you must answer them very sincerely so that the diagnosis is as accurate as possible.
It is worth remembering that doctors advise patients to wear clothes that do not hinder the performance of the exams, so wear button-down shirts and long sleeves when you go to the cardiologist.
The measurement of blood pressure is one of the most important data in a consultation with a cardiologist and needs to follow a series of parameters so that it is not distorted. To do this, you must not:
- having a full bladder;
- having practiced physical exercises in the last 60-90 minutes;
- having drunk alcohol, coffee or other stimulating foods in the last 30 minutes;
- have smoked in the last 30 minutes.
After collecting all the necessary information, the cardiologist will probably have you undergo some tests. All of them are simple, fast and are often done inside the cardiologist’s office. To make you feel more relaxed, understand which are the most important to follow.
It is nothing more than a specific ultrasound of the heart that collects a series of images of its structures and their movement so that the size of the cavities, heart valves and other structures can be analyzed.
Exam where some electrodes are placed on the patient’s chest so that their heart beats are recorded. Although simple and inexpensive, it is an extremely important and information-rich exam.
Test that detects any problem that the individual may have when making some physical effort. For this, the patient needs to run on the treadmill or ride a bicycle during the exam.
Magnetic resonance imaging
This is the test that obtains images of the entire chest. Also, remember: all relevant tests that you have done before should be taken in consultation with the cardiologist so that he can better understand your case, as they are useful for assessing the progression or regression of a disease, for example .
What are the most common cardiovascular diseases?
Unfortunately, the number of people suffering from some cardiovascular disease in Brazil is very high, and that is why it is so important that you go to the cardiologist. The most common diseases among patients are:
It is when the heart beats irregularly or out of the ordinary. For example, when the patient tends to beat faster and they fall abruptly, or the other way around.
When the heart has difficulty in pumping the necessary blood throughout the body. There are more than 2 million cases per year in Brazil.
It usually occurs because a clot blocks blood flow to the heart. The bloodless part loses oxygen and the tissue dies, causing the heart attack. More than 150 thousand cases are registered per year in Brazil.
How to choose a good professional?
In addition to researching the professional and training institutions, you should be aware of the most practical issues. First, try to know the structure of the office and what equipment it has. A well-equipped office or clinic saves a lot of effort because it allows some tests to be done right there.
In addition, you can search for patient satisfaction ratings in tools already available online. A doctor who has been well evaluated by other patients tends to offer more humanized care and to have successful behaviors.
Trust in the professional is a central aspect of health care, because you will only be motivated to execute the guidelines perfectly if the doctor builds a good relationship during the consultation.
Finally, it is pertinent to say that, although there are many options for complementary laboratory and imaging tests, they will not always be necessary. So do not be alarmed if you leave the office without all the requests you imagine.
There are specific indications for each of these tests and doing them unnecessarily can expose you to radiation and other aggressive agents without any benefit. The good doctor values the complete interview, the physical exam with the patient and knows how to order only the complementary exams that are really necessary.
Most people only schedule an appointment with the cardiologist when they are already suffering from a heart condition. Ideally, you should pay attention to the signs and make an appointment in advance. After all, the sooner a disease is diagnosed, the easier it will be treated.
The greatest fear of cardiologists, in fact, is that the patient will fail to approach problems simpler and more treatable and end up evolving, through negligence, into an irreversible chronic condition or an unpredictable event, such as a heart attack.
Now that you know more about what will happen in your first cardiologist appointment, there is no reason to fear this specialty so central to medicine.