Is It Time to See a Cardiologist?

4 min read  |  February 22, 2023  | 
Disponible en Español |

Your heart health is key to your overall well-being. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men, women, and people of most racial and ethnic groups in the United States. That’s why you shouldn’t ignore any signs of cardiovascular dysfunction. 

If you’ve been managing a heart condition like AFib, you’re already aware of what it feels like when something isn’t right. You should discuss with your cardiologist how best to respond to symptoms like a racing heart and chest tightness. If you’ve never seen a heart specialist and suddenly experience chest pain, how can you tell if it’s time to schedule your first appointment or rush to the emergency room?

Common reasons to see a cardiologist

If you haven’t visited a cardiologist by age 40, speak to your primary care physician about your heart health and any cardiovascular risk factors.

These include your family history; weight; stress; and lifestyle choices like diet, exercise habits, and smoking. If they find something of concern, your doctor can refer you to a cardiologist.

If you’ve been diagnosed with any of the following conditions, or if these run in your family, see a cardiologist for symptom and disease management through medication, heart-healthy lifestyle changes, and regular checkups to monitor your numbers and understand your risk factors as you age.

  • hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • high cholesterol
  • diabetes (high glucose)
  • coronary artery disease
  • heart failure
  • heart rhythm disorders
  • post-heart attack monitoring

If you suddenly experience any of the following signs, see your primary care physician as soon as possible for a referral to a heart specialist. Any one of these symptoms may indicate an underlying cardiovascular condition that might become life-threatening if you don’t receive treatment or make lifestyle improvements.

  • chest discomfort
  • reduced ability to exercise
  • feeling faintish
  • profound weakness
  • shortness of breath that worsens 
  • neck veins that stick out
  • ankle swelling
  • significant weight gain
  • heart racing (palpitations) or an irregular heartbeat

When to skip the office visit and call 911

Any new sign of a serious heart condition is a reason to seek emergency care. Delaying medical intervention could damage the heart or lead to sudden cardiac death.

Signs of a heart attack (blocked blood flow to the heart), heart failure (heart muscle doesn’t pump enough blood to the body), or sudden cardiac arrest (heart malfunctions and suddenly stops beating) include:

  • dizziness or lightheadedness
  • chest pain
  • heart racing (palpitations) or an irregular heartbeat
  • feeling pressure or fullness in the chest
  • difficulty breathing, shortness of breath with activity or when lying down
  • dizziness
  • nausea, vomiting
  • cold sweats
  • pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, upper back, or upper abdomen
  • unusual sudden fatigue
  • feeling severe heartburn or indigestion
  • swelling of the legs, ankles, feet, or abdomen
  • persistent cough/wheezing with white or pink mucus

If a heart attack is caught right away (within a few minutes or hours), a cardiologist can implant a stent in the blocked artery to improve blood flow and avoid heart failure.

Why choose UHealth for your cardiovascular care?

The University of Miami Health Systems offers comprehensive preventive medicine, diagnostics, and therapy for coronary artery disease, advanced heart failure, valve disease, heart rhythm disorders, and peripheral arterial disease.

Our leading-edge treatments include heart transplants and the use of ventricular assist devices during percutaneous coronary interventions. In complex cases, heart disease care may require an interventional cardiologist and cardiothoracic surgeon, as well as physicians who specialize in geneticists, diabetes, and lung conditions.

At UHealth, a multidisciplinary team of doctors collaborates to ensure all specialties involved in your care administer a unified treatment plan.

Contact UHealth to schedule an appointment with a heart health specialist. Call 305-243-5554 or request an appointment online.

Written by Dana Kantrowitz, a contributor for UHealth’s news service. Medically reviewed by Yiannis S. Chatzizisis, M.D., Ph.D., FACC, FAHA, FSCAI, FESC, chief of cardiovascular medicine at UHealth.

Tags: blood vessels, Dr. Yiannis S. Chatzizisis, heart attack symptoms, heart problems, talking to your doctor, type of heart disease

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