Do you need a cardiologist?
As you consider health improvements you want to make in 2019, look into your heart and ask yourself: "how's it going in there?" According to the American Heart Association's 2018 statistics, about 92.1 million American adults are living with some form of cardiovascular disease. It accounts for one in seven deaths in the U.S. and claims more lives each year than all forms of cancer, combined. These are scary statistics but take heart: many of the risks of cardiovascular disease are reversible with medication and lifestyle changes. You can lower your cholesterol, stabilize your blood pressure and achieve a healthy weight, but it can't happen until you know your numbers.
Start with your PCP
Your primary care physician can often monitor and manage high cholesterol and/or high blood pressure. At a glance, your vital stats should look something like this:
- If you are under age 80, your blood pressure shouldn’t regularly be higher than 120/80.
- The optimal level for your LDL cholesterol (LDL is bad cholesterol) is 100. The lower the number, the better.
- If your HDL cholesterol level is around 60, you are lowering your risk for heart disease. HDL is good cholesterol, so higher numbers are best.
- Your total cholesterol (LDL + HDL) should be below 200.
- Your blood glucose should be below 150.
Your PCP can check these numbers at your annual exam. Some PCPs may also recommend an EKG, a diagnostic test to establish a baseline of your heart rhythm. The annual exam is essential for tracking your health and making plans for improvements. And improvements are possible – many of these numbers can be put in check by eliminating smoking, adding exercise and cleaning up your diet.
When would I need a cardiologist?
If your numbers are out of range, or if you have a family history of heart disease -- such as one or more immediate family members being affected by high blood pressure or cholesterol -- then it may be time for an evaluation from a cardiologist. Additionally, high numbers and comorbidities diabetes and obesity can prompt your PCP to refer you to a cardiologist.
Your referral to a cardiologist could be a one-time visit or a series of ongoing, routine check-ups. If you are experiencing heightened risk factors of a cardiac event, you should not hesitate to see a cardiologist.
Heightened risk factors include:
- Chest Pain or discomfort
- Shortness of breath, which can indicate congestive heart failure or valve problems
- Rhythm disturbances called arrhythmias
- Family history of heart disease
- A diagnosis of chronic kidney disease, which increases your risk of heart disease
- A diagnosis of peripheral arterial disease
Your heart's working hard for you – show it some love! Small changes can make a tremendous difference to your heart health.
About Dr. Tota-Maharaj
Dr. Rajesh Tota-Maharaj is an interventional cardiologist who is board certified in internal medicine and cardiovascular medicine. To make an appointment call (407) 303-6588.