How to Know When It’s Time to See a Cardiologist

According to the British Heart Foundation statistics, 460 people die every day in the UK due to a heart or circulatory disease. With cardiovascular diseases being the first cause of death worldwide (17.9 million deaths per year), there is every likelihood that you may have thought about the risks of developing heart disease.

Enjoying a healthy lifestyle is the key to avoiding a heart scare. However, there are a number of reasons why you or your doctor might be interested in checking your heart health, despite not showing evident signs of cardiovascular disease.

In fact, it is not uncommon to be referred to a cardiologist after a routine checkup with your GP, especially if you are over 40 or have a family history of heart disease. In today’s post, we are going to talk about why you may need to see a cardiologist and how a private clinic could be the right place to treat your heart condition.

Reasons why you should see a cardiologist

1. High blood pressure

We call blood pressure the strength with which blood pushes against the walls of the blood vessels as it runs through your body. High blood pressure (hypertension) can be caused by a variety of factors (from smoking to stress, to a lack of physical activity or even adding too much salt to your dishes) and it is a very dangerous factor in the development of cardiovascular diseases, as it puts extra strain both on your heart and your arteries. If your blood pressure continues being high over a period of time, it can lead to the narrowing of arteries which eventually could cause a heart attack.

Unfortunately, high blood pressure is a silent killer, as it doesn’t produce evident symptoms. This is why it’s important to have your blood pressure checked either by your GP or yourself at home with a blood pressure monitor.

2. Diabetes

People with diabetes are twice as likely to develop heart disease and at a younger age than people without diabetes. This is because when your body can’t use all the sugar contained in your blood, this builds up and can lead to your vessels being damaged or blocked. When blood can’t run through the arteries due to this tightening, your heart could run short of oxygen and other nutrients, putting yourself at risk of a heart attack. Therefore, it is incredibly important for people who suffer from diabetes to get their sugar levels checked at least once a year and stay as close as possible to their target HbA1c levels.

3. Family history of heart disease

As it happens with many other diseases, genetics greatly influences your chances of developing cardiovascular diseases. Now, this doesn’t mean that if your father had a heart attack you will inevitably have one yourself – but it is undoubtedly one important risk factor. Luckily, it can be outweighed by a healthy lifestyle.

If you are aware of any cardiovascular diseases running in your family, do not hesitate to get in touch with your general practitioner or a cardiologist.

4. High cholesterol

Despite its bad press, the human body requires a regular intake of cholesterol, as it plays an important role in the production of vitamin D, steroid hormones and bile, as well as being part of the membrane of body cells. In fact, cholesterol is a fatty substance that we don’t only get from the foods we eat but that is also produced in the liver. There are two main types of cholesterol you have probably heard of:

  • LDL Cholesterol – bad cholesterol
  • HDL Cholesterol – good cholesterol

If your levels of LDL Cholesterol are too high, the extra fat carried in your blood can harden against the walls of your blood vessels. If your blood vessels become too narrow, the blood could be stopped from passing through and, just as it happens with high sugar blood levels, your heart wouldn’t receive as much oxygen and nutrients as it needs.

5. Gum disease

As strange as it may seem, there is a link between poor oral health and cardiovascular disease. Experts don’t know exactly if there is a direct correlation between these two issues or whether there is a third factor at play, such as smoking. However, according to the American Stroke Association, two studies would have demonstrated the possibility of reducing the chances of suffering a stroke by treating gum disease.

But how can a mouth infection be so dangerous? Gum disease is caused by bacteria that causes inflammation of the tissue supporting your teeth. Sometimes, the body can overreact to the infection, translating the inflammation from the gums to blood vessels. If you believe you have gum disease or feel your gums swollen, a visit to your dentist could save yourself a headache.

6. Leg pains or foot swelling

Finding out that your legs or feet look swollen for no apparent reason can be scary. Only a doctor will be able to tell you if this is a sign of heart, liver or kidney disease, depending on the symptoms accompanying the swelling (edema).

However, there could be other reasons behind it. For example, women who have had children and people who have had clots in their legs are prone to suffer from venous insufficiency, which can be helped by elevating the legs when sitting and wearing support stockings. If only one leg appears suddenly swollen and warm, it could be a skin infection, but also a signal of a blood clot. Whatever the case, if your legs or feet look swollen, get in touch with your doctor immediately.

7. Chest discomfort

Hollywood’s idea of a heart attack is really dramatic. As I’m sure you have seen in more than one and two movies, there’s usually a man gripping his chest in horrible pain after being given some terrible news. In reality, the actual symptoms of a heart attack are often so much milder than people suffering from a real heart attack might overlook them, as they don’t relate the image from the movies to what they are feeling.

So what symptoms could indicate that you are suffering a heart attack and shouldn’t wait for longer before calling an ambulance?

  • Pressure or tightness in your chest;
  • Shortness of breath, dizziness or weakness;
  • Nausea or vomiting and cold sweats;
  • Stabbing pain that spreads from your chest to your back, neck, jaw, shoulders, and arms.

Considering a Private Clinic for Heart Care

Dealing with heart issues can be overwhelming, and while most people get great care from their regular doctors, sometimes you might want a bit more reassurance or face delays that can be stressful. This is where private clinics can come in handy.

Private clinics have specialized heart doctors and the latest technology, focusing on making your visits as smooth and comfortable as possible. They’re a good option if you’re looking for quick access to specialists or a second opinion.

If you decide to go this route, you don’t always need a referral from your GP, but it’s a good idea to keep them in the loop. This way, they can share your medical history with the specialist, which helps you get the best care possible. Choosing a private clinic can offer peace of mind, especially if you have specific concerns about your heart health.

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