Definition and Overview

Heart health consultation is a discussion between the patient and a cardiovascular specialist, who can be a cardiologist, cardiovascular surgeon, cardiothoracic specialist, or a general physician usually for the prevention of heart-related conditions. A consultation is also necessary to manage or treat the disease including reducing associated risks.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has confirmed that at least 600,000 people die from cardiovascular-related conditions including coronary heart disease in the United States each year, making it the leading cause of death. Although many factors are uncontrollable, experts suggest that the disease can be managed and prevented.

The heart is the only organ in the body that is capable of distributing the blood that contains much-needed nutrients and oxygen to various organs and tissues, which makes its maintenance and management paramount not only to the survival but also to the preservation or improvement of a person’s quality of life.

Who Should Undergo and Expected Results

A heart health consultation is recommended for people who exhibit certain risks or predispositions. The American Heart Association (AHA) classifies these risks as modifiable and non-modifiable, as well as factors that can indirectly increase the susceptibility.

Under the non-modifiable risks are age, gender and heredity.

  • People who are 65 years old and above are at a higher risk of dying due to coronary heart disease.
  • Men are more likely to develop the condition at much earlier age, although women may die more quickly than men.
  • Many studies suggest that heart conditions tend to run in the family, and they may manifest earlier than the general population.
    Meanwhile, modifiable risks include the following:

  • Diabetes

  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • High cholesterol (lipidemia)
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Obesity
    Factors such as stress, socioeconomic status, diet and nutrition, and alcohol may also affect heart health.

The consultation may also be necessary for patients who have been diagnosed with a heart condition, including a congenital defect in which case the discussion will focus on how to manage the risks to delay, slow, or halt the disease’s progress, as well as to determine the best course of treatment, such as surgery and medications. Patients who have gone through certain heart-related interventions like a heart bypass, stent surgery or angioplasty and conditions like stroke and heart attack also need to work closely with their heart doctors.

How Does the Procedure Work?

Normally, the consultation is conducted based on the recommended guidelines of different organizations, such as the CDC, AHA and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The AHA believes that heart screening should begin as early as 20 years old, and the patient must be tested for many factors such as blood pressure, body weight and cholesterol. Blood glucose test, which determines the presence of diabetes, is recommended for men and women beginning at age 45.

During the consultation, the doctor will:

  • Review the medical records of the patient, along with the results of the standard cardiac screening tests to determine the level and severity of risk
  • Classify these risks and identify whether they are modifiable or not
  • Prescribe the necessary treatment, which may include medications and surgery
  • Track the progress of the disease, risks, or symptoms
  • Educate the patient on how to manage the disease or risks
  • Schedule follow-up care after treatment
  • Coordinate with other health professionals such as nutritionists or dietitians, surgeons, radiologists and general practitioners depending on the needs of the patient
    Each consultation lasts about an hour and may involve many appointments especially if the risks are deemed serious and require close monitoring and attention. Consultations are also scheduled after the exams so the doctor can explain the results to the patient.

Possible Risks and Complications

Some of the screening tests require preparations. For instance, a blood glucose exam requires the patient to fast for at least 8 hours. They may also take time. Although several of these tests can be completed within a day, there may be instances when the patient has to be confined overnight or wear a device called a Holter monitor, which should be attached to the body for a few days up to two weeks. Overall, the complexity of the processes may discourage the patient from proceeding with the consultation. Patients who do not show physical signs and symptoms may also avoid consultations.

A heart health consultation is important, but recent studies point out that many patients may be subjected to unnecessary screening or testing, which may then result in overdiagnosis and overtreatment. The Harvard Medical School has also outlined some of the commonly ordered but unneeded exams, which may include stress cardiac imaging. They then suggested that such tests should not be part of routine screening.

Reference:

  • American Heart Association. Stress and Heart Health. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/StressManagement/HowDoesStressAffectYou/Stress-and-Heart-HealthUCM437370_Article.jsp.
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