Heart disease is the #1 cause of death for men and women in the US, making cardiologists one of the most sought after physicians in the nation.
If you have cardiac-related symptoms or you were just diagnosed with a heart condition, finding a trustworthy, experienced cardiologist is likely on the top of your list. But even though many great doctors exist, not every cardiologist will be the right fit for you.
Our goal here at MediFind is to give you more confidence in your health decisions, especially when settling on the right doctor. That’s why we created this guide—to empower you with the information you need to make the right decisions when working with and choosing a good cardiologist. (Note: if you are currently experiencing new or serious symptoms you think may be related to your heart, call your doctor, visit your local emergency room, or call 911).
Your cardiologist will likely be in your life for the long-term, so connecting with a physician you can trust is vital. Later on in this guide, we will discuss finding the right cardiologist who can treat your specific condition. Let’s first cover what your cardiologist does, their role, and what to expect when you walk into your cardiologist’s office.
What is a Cardiologist? What Does a Cardiologist Do?
Cardiologists diagnose and treat conditions of the cardiovascular system (the heart and blood vessels). They also educate patients on heart health, heart disease risk factors, and disease prevention habits. They are commonly referred to as “heart doctors” or “heart specialists.”
Cardiologists treat heart disease, heart failure, arrhythmia, and any other serious heart abnormality or condition.
Your primary care physician may refer you to a cardiologist if they feel you need more specialized attention for your heart-related symptoms. These symptoms could range from chest pain to abnormal electrocardiograms, irregular heartbeat, shortness of breath, and more.
Even though a cardiologist is a specialist, within this discipline exists multiple cardiology areas of focus. A cardiologist can attend specialized training to manage specific cardiovascular issues. Below are three cardiology specialties:
Interventional cardiology: An interventional cardiologist specializes in interventional procedures (such as stent placement and balloon angioplasty) and typically treats narrowed arteries using small incisions and catheters. This cardiologist may treat conditions such as a valve disease or ischemic heart disease.
Electrophysiology: Cardiac electrophysiology focuses on the heart’s electrical disturbances or rhythm disorders such as atrial fibrillation. A cardiologist specializing in electrophysiology may also install pacemakers and catheters, and conduct diagnostic procedures.
Advanced heart failure and transplant cardiology: If you have an advanced heart failure case, are on a ventricular assist device, or need a heart transplant (or have had one), you may see this type of cardiologist.
Other cardiology specialties focus on congenital heart disease (you are born with a heart defect), a specific age group (pediatric, adult), or even a particular procedure (cardiothoracic surgeon).
Reasons to See a Cardiologist
It’s not always essential to see a cardiologist. It depends on your symptoms, medical history, and other factors. Your primary care doctor should assist you with your symptoms and provide advice on your next steps. However, when in doubt, it’s OK to see a cardiologist on your own, even if your PCP did not refer you to them.
According to Harvard Medical School, your primary care provider can manage most uncomplicated cases of high blood pressure and high cholesterol. But since adults with diabetes are 2-4 times more likely to have heart disease than those without it, if you have diabetes or are obese, Harvard recommends getting a more extensive assessment from a cardiologist. If an immediate family member had a premature heart attack (before age 55 for a male and before age 65 for a female), let your PCP know. Your odds of having a heart attack are higher than average and may necessitate a visit to a cardiologist, even for preventative measures.
Symptoms to Watch
There are a few symptoms that are associated with heart conditions. If you have one or a few of them, it may warrant a cardiologist visit and a discussion with your doctor about the next steps. Of course, if you are at all concerned, call your doctor or 911. Here are some symptoms to discuss with your cardiologist.
- Shortness of breath
- Fainting spells
- Chest pain
- Fluttering sensation in the chest (palpitations or feelings of heart racing or irregular heartbeat)
Note that in this article, we are discussing heart issues that might or might not require emergency assistance. According to the American Medical Association, if you have any of the below symptoms, call 911 and visit a hospital immediately.
- Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain in the center of your chest. It lasts more than a few minutes or goes away and comes back.
- Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach.
- Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
- Other signs such as breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea, or lightheadedness.
- As with men, women’s most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, and back or jaw pain.
Lifestyle Habits and Pre-Existing Conditions
According to Northwest Medicine, certain lifestyle habits, medical history, or pre-existing conditions also put you at greater risk of heart issues. If any of the below apply to you, it might be a good idea to visit a cardiologist.
- You have diabetes
- History of smoking
- History of high cholesterol
- History of high blood pressure
- Family history of heart disease
- You have chronic kidney disease
- You have peripheral arterial disease
- You are inactive and want to start an exercise routine
What to Expect During Your Cardiologist Visit
It’s OK to feel apprehensive before your cardiologist visit. Heart health is important, and managing symptoms of a heart condition can feel scary, even if you are just going for a routine preventative checkup.
We hope to put you at ease by outlining what you can expect when you visit your cardiologist. We will also give you some tips on how to prepare to get the most out of your visit, and supply you with a list of questions to ask your doctor.
Advice for First-Timers
If this is the first time you are seeing a cardiologist, below are some tips to help you have a successful visit.
Bring your list of concerns (or reasons for your visit) with you on a piece of paper or your phone, so you can easily recall them when speaking to your cardiologist. Later in this section, we will supply you with a list of questions to ask your doctor.
Bring a friend or loved one for support so you can recall the information after your visit. You may be nervous, which will make it more difficult to remember what the doctor said. Bring a notebook as well so you can take notes.
Be honest and don’t hold anything back. Your doctor can only help you with the information you give them. Understanding the full picture will give your doctor more to work with and help them provide you with the best care. According to Beaumont cardiologist Michael Tucciarone, M.D., as reported by Beaumont Health, “Patients should be honest about their symptoms and lifestyle habits. This information helps us understand the full picture and allows us to give much-needed advice.”
Before Your Cardiologist Appointment
Prepare for your appointment by gathering the following items:
- Copies of medical records (dating back at least one year)
- List of current medications/supplements
- Allergies to medications
- List of symptoms and details about how long they last and how often (it’s advisable to write them down beforehand as it’s easy to forget when you are at your appointment)
- Family history of disease
- List of questions (see next section)
During Your Cardiologist Appointment
What can you expect during your appointment? First, it may be useful to show up at least 15 minutes prior in case you have trouble finding the place. You will also need to fill out paperwork.
Your cardiologist visit may entail a physical exam, symptom evaluation, and a medical history review. Your cardiologist may also send you for additional testing to confirm or rule out a diagnosis. Once a diagnosis is confirmed, your doctor will discuss treatment options with you or refer you to another heart specialist if you need additional care. For example, if you need a balloon angioplasty procedure, your cardiologist may refer you to a cardiovascular surgeon.
This visit will also include a time to discuss your concerns with your doctor. Feel free to ask your questions. Good doctors want to ease your worries and ensure you fully understand your diagnosis, what to expect, and treatment options. Your time may be limited though, so prepare your questions beforehand, placing the highest priority questions at the top of the list.
Below is a list of questions to consider asking your cardiologist. The questions you ask your doctor will depend on your unique medical situation, so we included a list of questions connected to different scenarios. Choose which ones make the most sense for your situation.
- What is my diagnosis?
- What kind of condition do I have?
- What is my prognosis?
- Are there any risks associated with my condition?
- Do I need additional testing?
- Why do you want to conduct these tests?
- Are there any risks associated with these tests?
- What is involved with this test? (outpatient, duration, preparation, etc.)
- When will I find out the test results?
Treatments / medication / procedures
- What are the treatments available?
- Are there any risks involved with this treatment?
- Why do I need this treatment?
- What are the benefits of each treatment?
- Are there any alternatives to this treatment?
- Are there any side effects of this medication?
- Does this medication interact with anything?
- How long will this procedure take?
- How do I need to prepare for the procedure?
- Is the procedure outpatient, or will I need to stay in the hospital?
- Who will be performing the procedure?
- Do I need to make lifestyle changes?
- Will lifestyle changes improve my condition or alleviate my symptoms?
- When should I follow up with another visit?
- Should I get a second opinion?
After the Appointment: Getting a Second Opinion
Suppose you are happy with your cardiologist and got your questions answered. In that case, you can schedule a follow-up appointment and follow the doctor’s instructions regarding treatment, medications, additional testing, or whatever the doctor has instructed you to do next.
If you are unhappy with or uncertain about your diagnosis and want a different perspective on your condition or treatments, it’s OK to get a second opinion. There are many wonderful cardiologists but not every physician is the right fit for you personally. The doctor-patient relationship is precious, with communication an essential factor. If you have a hard time communicating with your cardiologist or do not feel comfortable, it might be time to look for another physician.
Medical errors are rare, but they do happen as doctors are fallible like everyone else. The BMJ Quality & Safety healthcare journal published a study on diagnostic errors. It estimated that approximately 12 million adults in the U.S. are misdiagnosed every year, and half of these misdiagnoses could potentially be harmful. Getting a second opinion can assure you that you are making the best health decisions and receiving quality of care.
If you want to find a cardiologist who can give you a quality second opinion, visit MediFind’s Second Opinion Finder.
How to Find a Good Cardiologist
Finding a cardiologist who is the right fit can be a confusing and complicated process. However, with the right tools, you can find an expert you can feel comfortable with and get the care you want and deserve.
Typically, your primary care physician will refer you to a cardiologist. But that doesn’t mean you need to see that referral. Later in this section, we will show you how to search for top cardiologists easily.
Your friends and family members may also refer you to a good cardiologist. But, beware. Though well-meaning, your loved ones might not know which cardiologist has expertise in your specific condition. We will cover why this is important later in this section.
Beware of online doctor reviews as well. While they might help you evaluate things like staff friendliness and office aesthetics, they do not give you the full picture of a doctor’s expertise.
The American Heart Association recommends researching a doctor’s credentials and confirming they are board-certified before booking an appointment. Search the following websites for a cardiologist’s certifications and specialties.
These databases do not dive into specifics on a physician’s expertise, however. Though they list the doctor’s board certifications, they do not provide information on their expertise in specific heart conditions, their current and past research, their clinical trials, or their connectedness to other doctors in their field.
Find the Best Cardiologists Quickly
MediFind was created to help health consumers quickly and easily find the best care and pathways to the right treatments.
MediFind is different from other doctor-finder databases because it doesn’t evaluate physicians based on online reviews, which can be biased, unreliable, and even fake. While marginally helpful when assessing the doctor’s office staff’s friendliness or typical wait times, online reviews do not give you the full picture of a doctor’s expertise. In contrast, MediFind catalogs physicians who focus on the treatment and care of one or a few conditions. These doctors are likely to offer additional perspectives and insights into your care and treatment than more generalized doctors.
MediFind evaluates physicians according to:
- Connectedness with other physicians who are experts in the treatment and pathology of this disease or condition
- Published papers or research about this condition
- Experience in treating patients with this condition
- Number of patients referred from other specialists who treat this condition
MediFind also is superior to other platforms because it offers a suite of tools and current research:
- Find a Doctor – Database includes over 2.5 million doctors from around the world, and allows you to search by condition, specialty, or name.
- Symptom Checker – Research your symptoms and identify possible causes that you can discuss with your doctor.
- Second Opinion Finder – Find doctors who can give you a quality second opinion.
- Research medical conditions, clinical trials, and the latest advances for your condition.
- Search through current objective medical data compiled in an easy-to-digest format.
How to Search for the Best Cardiologists: Start Here
To search for cardiologists in your area, visit MediFind’s Best Cardiologists Near Me page and enter your location and radius. MediFind will return a list of cardiologists within the mile radius of your preferred location.
We encourage you to take your search a step further to see what makes MediFind superior to other tools. On the right side of the Cardiologist search page, next to the doctor profiles, you will find a list of heart conditions. Click on a condition to customize your search. If your heart condition is not listed here, simply click on the search icon in the upper right corner of the page and type in your condition to find cardiologists who specialize in your specific condition.
This list is important because there is a lot of value in finding a cardiologist with expertise in your specific heart condition, as we explained earlier.
Performing a custom search for a particular heart condition returns a list of cardiologists who are experts in that condition, ranked by MediFind’s expert tiers. Our expert tiers evaluate physicians based on the factors we listed above (connectedness, number of patients seen, referrals, research), among other factors. Read more on how MediFind evaluates physicians. When you click on a doctor’s profile, you will also find more information about the condition along with its latest advances and clinical trials. Also, the profile includes the doctor’s credentials, research, and expertise in related conditions.
If you are unsure of your specific condition, use MediFind’s Symptom Checker to narrow your focus on a diagnosis so you can find the right cardiologists. Note that the Symptom Checker is not a diagnostic tool. It merely helps you narrow down a condition to find the best cardiologists (who have expertise in that condition), so you can find the best cardiologists and discuss your potential diagnosis with your doctor.
We’re On Your Side
The information MediFind offers you is not available in online reviews or other medical websites. Yet, it’s essential to have this information so you can receive the highest quality of care.
When you are managing a complex or rare health condition, time is not always on your side. We created MediFind to help you find the best care as quickly as possible. We hope that we can alleviate some of the challenges associated with the journey to better health and provide you with the means to access world-class doctors you can trust.