Whether you’re going for a routine visit or addressing specific health issues, knowing what to expect at your cardiologist’s office can help alleviate worries and ensure productive conversation. Andrew Armanious, MD, a cardiologist with Atlantic Health System, explains what a typical first visit to a cardiologist may look like.
1. Medical History Review
To start, you will be asked about your overall health and medical history. Some forms of heart disease are genetic, so understanding if medical conditions or heart problems run in your family is helpful. You’ll also be discussing your lifestyle, diet, exercise habits, and any medications or supplements you are currently taking.
2. Physical Examination
Your cardiologist will perform a physical exam to assess your cardiovascular health. This typically involves checking your blood pressure, pulse, and listening to your heart and lungs for any abnormal sounds or rhythms.
3. Electrocardiogram (ECG/EKG)
A simple and painless test called an electrocardiogram will show the electrical activity and rhythm of your heart. Your cardiologist will attach small electrodes to your chest, arms, and legs, to detect an arrhythmia (which is an irregular heartbeat), previous heart attacks, or problems with the electrical system of the heart.
4. Additional Diagnostic Tests
Depending on your symptoms or risk factors, further tests may be prescribed:
- Echocardiogram: This heart ultrasound provides detailed images of the structure and function of your heart chambers and valves.
- Stress Test: This measures how your heart responds to physical activity. It may involve walking on a treadmill. If you have physical limitations, a medication that simulates exercise can be given in place of using a treadmill.
- Rhythm Monitor: Sometimes called a “Holter monitor,” this portable device records your heart’s electrical activity over time to help identify periodic or intermittent abnormalities.
- Blood Tests: Cholesterol panels and blood glucose tests (such as hemoglobin A1C) give your cardiologist a clear picture of your overall cardiovascular health.
5. Discussing Findings and Treatment Plans
If your cardiologist identifies problems or risk factors, they will develop a personalized treatment plan that may include lifestyle modifications, medications, or further interventions. Most times, no significant heart problems are found, but your cardiologist may recommend follow-up visits to prevent heart disease from developing.
“Going to see a doctor can be intimidating, and having symptoms that relate to your heart can be particularly worrisome,” says Dr. Armanious. “However, our goal is to alleviate those worries and to form genuine relationships with you over time to keep you as healthy as possible.”
“Everyone’s circumstances are unique, so the purpose of coming to see us is not simply to run tests and prescribe medications. It is to understand your particular situation and tailor treatment plans to your needs and preferences. Our goal is always the same as yours — making sure your heart stays healthy.”
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