As people get older, many people experience more pain throughout their body. While many symptoms are due to the natural aging process, it is important to pay special attention to the cardiovascular system. An expert explains which symptoms you should seek cardiological help for.
February is Heart Health Month. Dr. Vinayak Nagaraja, an interventional cardiologist at the US Mayo Clinic Health System, is using this month to provide information on cardiovascular health and explain when to seek cardiology help.
Possible warning signs
“Heart Month is a great time of year to remind people that not all symptoms are created equal when it comes to our cardiovascular health,” says Dr. Vinayak Nagaraja.
“If you have any concerns about the symptoms you may be experiencing, it is always a good idea to meet with your primary care doctor to determine whether you should be referred to a cardiologist.”
So what are some warning signs of underlying problems? Symptoms that suggest you may need a referral to a cardiologist include:
- Chest discomfort such as chest pain
- shortness of breath
- Swelling in the legs (swollen legs)
- high blood pressure
- Unusually fast or slow heart rate
- Dizziness or fainting
- Family history of premature heart disease or cardiac death
- Leg pain or ulcers due to blood vessel disease
Early treatment can save lives
A cardiologist will assess your symptoms, review your medical history, and may recommend diagnostic tests to appropriately diagnose the cause of your symptoms and help your primary care physician determine the best course of treatment for you. Your individual treatment plan could include:
Advice on diet and exercise changes You can reduce your risk of heart disease by eating a diet low in fat and sodium, getting at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week, quitting smoking, and limiting alcohol consumption. Dr. Nagaraja recommends a Mediterranean diet and avoiding red meat and processed foods. He also suggests practicing yoga and meditation.
Medication If lifestyle changes alone are not enough, your doctor may prescribe medication to control your condition. The type of medicine you receive depends on the type and severity of your heart disease.
Heart Surgery If medications aren’t enough, your cardiac care team may recommend certain procedures or surgeries. The type of procedure or surgery depends on the type of heart disease and the extent of the heart damage.
After heart surgery, you will usually be sent back to your cardiologist for long-term monitoring and care.
“It may seem daunting to consider a diagnosis of cardiovascular disease that requires surgery, but identifying and treating the problem early can save your life,” says Dr. Nagaraja. (ad)