What is a cardiologist?

A cardiologist is a doctor who’s an expert in heart and blood vessel diseases. They can treat heart diseases and help keep you from getting heart diseases. After completing four years of medical school, cardiologists spend three years learning general internal medicine as a resident, plus at least three more years of specialized training after that.

After 10 years of training, a cardiologist can take an American Board of Internal Medicine exam. Even after achieving board certification, cardiologists keep learning for as long as they practice. They must keep up with the latest advances in how to treat patients to provide the utmost care.

What does a cardiologist do?

A cardiologist is a healthcare provider who can treat chest pain, high blood pressure, and heart failure, as well as problems with your heart valves, blood vessels, and other heart and vascular issues.

They can order tests like electrocardiograms, echocardiograms, and CTs (computed tomography) to find out what’s wrong. With their diagnosis, they can order medicine, help you start a healthier exercise and eating habits, or do cardiac catheterization. A cardiologist will do a physical exam and discuss your symptoms, medical history, and family history with you. It’s important to let your cardiologist know if other people in your family have had heart problems because that can increase the chances of you having a heart problem.

Some basic information can give your cardiologist valuable information about your cardiovascular health, such as your:

  • Weight.

  • Blood pressure.

  • Cholesterol levels.

  • Blood glucose (sugar) levels.

What diseases do cardiologists treat or help you prevent?

Cardiologists can treat a wide range of heart and vascular problems, including:

  • Atherosclerosis.

  • High blood pressure.

  • High cholesterol.

  • Angina (chest pain).

  • Sudden cardiac arrest.

  • Heart failure.

  • Heart attack.

  • Blood clots.

  • Atrial fibrillation and other heart rhythm disorders.

  • Endocarditis.

  • Cardiogenic shock.

  • Heart valve problems.

  • Heart abnormalities.

  • Cardiomyopathy.

  • Myocarditis.

  • Congenital (from birth) conditions.

  • Problems with your aorta (aneurysm, stenosis).

  • Problems with your arteries (peripheral artery disease, subclavian artery disease, renal artery disease, coronary artery disease).

  • Stroke.

What kind of tests does a cardiologist do?

A cardiologist can order the following tests, but other healthcare providers may perform some of these tests:

  • Cardiac catheterization.

  • Chest X-ray.

  • Cardiac MRI (magnetic resonance imaging).

  • Cardiac CT (computed tomography).

  • Coronary angiogram.

  • Stress tests.

  • Electrocardiogram (EKG).

  • Echocardiogram.

  • Transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE).

  • Holter monitor.

  • Event monitor.

  • Implantable event recorder/implantable loop recorder.

When to see a cardiologist

Your primary care provider may refer you to a cardiologist if you have a problem with your heart or blood vessels that needs extra care. If you’re feeling pain in your chest, dizziness, or shortness of breath, you may need to see a cardiologist. Your cardiologist may keep working with you for a long time as they monitor your conditions.