Heart Failure: Why See a Specialist?

By

Allie Lemco Toren

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Caucasian doctor listening to heartbeat of patient

Heart failure is a complex disease that affects everyone differently. That’s why all heart failure patients should follow unique treatment plans tailored to their specific needs. But your primary care doctor may not have all the information you need to manage your heart failure successfully.

That’s where specialists come in: a heart failure specialist, called a cardiologist, has the right skills and insight to help you stay in control of your heart health. Here’s why:

1. A cardiologist completes extensive training in heart failure and is an expert in heart failure care.

A cardiologist is a physician who specializes in treating diseases related to the cardiovascular system. The cardiovascular system is involved in many aspects of human health, so cardiologists must train extensively to master this area of study. A cardiologist will have expertise in treating heart failure and other conditions related to the heart and vascular system.

All doctors complete a training program called a residency after they finish medical school. But cardiologists receive considerable training beyond that. Cardiologists spend several additional years in a fellowship, during which they train under experienced cardiologists and focus on patients with heart failure and issues affecting the cardiovascular system. At the end of this period, specialists are qualified to take an exam to become board-certified cardiologists. Look for a doctor who is board certified in cardiology, and you’ll know you’re seeing an expert. 

2. A cardiologist never stops learning about heart failure.

To maintain their board certifications, cardiologists must keep up with new developments in their field. They must complete continuing education and renew their licenses every few years, depending on the state in which they practice and other factors. By following these requirements, board-certified cardiologists stay on top of new treatments and discoveries about the mechanisms involved in heart failure, so they can then provide their patients with insightful, informed, and up-to-date treatment plans.

3. A cardiologist has extensive experience in treating heart failure.

Cardiologists see a higher volume and concentration of patients with heart failure, and thus are more experienced in treating the condition successfully. Because they see lots of patients with heart failure, they can add real-world knowledge of the disease to their academic and clinical training. They’re able to assess how well patients respond to certain treatments, have a deeper understanding of how heart failure progresses over time, share insight about effectively implementing lifestyle changes, and recognize symptoms that a general practitioner may miss, among other skills.

4. A cardiologist is a team player.

Cardiologists work with teams of other health care providers who treat patients with heart failure and can connect patients with nurse practitioners, nutritionists, cardiac surgeons, and other experts in heart failure management. Working with a team can help patients address all aspects of the disease and ensure success.

5. It’s easy to find the right cardiologist for you.

There are thousands of cardiologists in the United States, so how do you know which is the right doctor for you? By searching on Healthgrades.com, you can identify the best cardiologist to help you manage your heart failure successfully.

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Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Jan 9, 2017

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