A cardiologist is a doctor who has had extra training to treat problems of the heart and blood vessels. A cardiologist has at least 10 years of medical training. This includes:
4 years of medical school
3 years of training in internal medicine
3 or more years in other training in cardiology and its related fields
He or she must then pass a test from the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) in cardiology. Then a doctor is a board-certified cardiologist.
This kind of doctor is not a primary healthcare provider. Cardiologists only work with people who need special heart care, or have had heart conditions in the past. Other doctors may consult with them about heart disease or other conditions. You may see a cardiologist if you have symptoms of heart or blood vessel problems. These may include:
Shortness of breath
Fluttering feelings in your chest
A cardiologist diagnoses and treats problems of the heart and blood vessels. These include:
Heart rhythm problems (arrhythmias)
High blood pressure
Cardiologists work in hospitals and in private practices. They may:
Give you a physical exam
Order tests, such as an electrocardiogram (ECG), blood tests, exercise stress test, or echocardiogram
Interpret the results of tests to diagnose a health condition you may have
Prescribe treatment, such as medicine
Advise lifestyle changes, such as changes in your diet, weight, stress, and physical activity
Counsel you on risks and prevention
Do some procedures, such as cardiac catheterization or implant a pacemaker
Refer you to a cardiac surgeon or an interventional cardiologist if needed
Some cardiologists also teach in universities and do research. They may help to create new treatments for heart problems.
A cardiologist will often focus his or her care on 1 type of patient. An adult cardiologist sees only adults. A pediatric cardiologist sees only babies, children, or teens. They are certified by the American Board of Pediatrics.
A cardiologist may get more training in a special area of heart care. ABIM also certifies doctors in cardiovascular disease. This focuses on care for people with problems of the heart and blood vessels. These include:
Heart valve disease
Some kinds of arrhythmia
These doctors can also be certified in what is called a subspecialty. These include:
Advanced heart failure and transplant cardiology. This focuses on care for people who have heart failure. They may need a heart transplant.
Clinical cardiac electrophysiology. This focuses on testing and treating the heart for rhythm problems.
Interventional cardiology. This focuses on using thin tubes (catheters) in blood vessels. This is done to find and treat problems in the vessels and the heart.