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Take Heart: 12 Reasons to Visit the Cardiologist

It’s about the size of a fist and weighs less than a pound, but the human heart is the hardest working organ in your body. In fact, the heart, which is a muscle, exerts twice the force of the leg muscles of someone sprinting!

The heart beats about 115,000 times per day pumping approximately 2,000 gallons of blood through your body. Needless to say, keeping it healthy is crucial to survival.  Heart disease is the leading cause of death among men and women in the United States; about 647,000 Americans die from heart disease each year.

About half of all Americans have at least one of four key risk factors for heart disease—high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes mellitus, and a history of smoking—but many are unaware they are in danger. This is where the cardiologist—a physician that specializes in care of the heart—can be a lifesaver.

A cardiologist assesses an individual’s risk, treats heart disease such as heart attacks, coronary artery disease, heart failure; arrhythmias, and valve problems and helps manage lifestyle changes that can improve your heart health.

These are 12 leading reasons why you may need to consult a cardiologist:

  1. Physician recommendation: Your primary care doctor might recommend a visit to the cardiologist.
  2. Chest pain: Chest pain and chest pressure that occurs or worsens with activity can be symptoms of life-threatening conditions.
  3. High blood pressure: Chronically elevated blood pressure causes the heart to work harder to circulate blood, increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke.
  4. Shortness of breath, palpitations, or dizziness: Any of these symptoms could be a sign of an abnormal heart rhythm or coronary artery disease.
  5. Diabetes: There is a strong link between cardiovascular disease and poorly controlled blood sugar.
  6. A history of smoking: Smoking 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.
  7. High cholesterol: High cholesterol can contribute to plaque in the arteries.
  8. Chronic kidney disease: Kidney disease is tied to high blood pressure and arterial disease.
  9. Family history of heart disease: Certain types of heart disease can be genetic.
  10. Peripheral arterial disease: If you have disease in other arteries (such as the leg or the large blood vessels to the brain) you are more likely to also have coronary artery disease.
  11. Starting a new exercise routine: If you are planning to start an exercise routine, getting a checkup can determine unknown heart conditions that might make exercise unsafe.
  12. Gum disease: Gum disease may increase the risk of heart disease because inflammation in the gums and bacteria may eventually lead to narrowing of important arteries.

Reviewed and approved by David L. Fischman MD, Department of Cardiology, Thomas Jefferson University Hospital.