What is a Cardiologist
A cardiologist is a physician with special training and skill in finding, treating and preventing diseases of the heart and blood vessels. Cardiologists work with patients to treat conditions including coronary artery disease, heart attack, atrial fibrillation and irregular heart rhythm. A cardiologist can help you manage risk through nutrition, exercise and lifestyle changes. If you’ve had a cardiac event, a cardiologist will play a role in recovery after surgery, cardiac rehab and heart medications.
Dr. Chi-Ming Chow, MD, MSc, FRCPC, FACC, FASE, Cardiologist talks about how the risk of stroke is determined for Atrial Fibrillation patients using the CHADS score.
The Symptoms of Atrial Fibrillation
Why is atrial fibrillation a problem? It’s a problem for two different reasons. First, most patients with atrial fibrillation don’t feel well, and they complain to their doctors, or they may go to hospital because they’re feeling unwell with atrial fibrillation.
The second reason is that atrial fibrillation is a risk factor for stroke. Let’s take these two problems one at a time. When atrial fibrillation occurs, most patients are aware that their heart is beating rapidly or irregularly or both. This feeling is often described as a fluttering in the chest, or a pounding in the chest, or so-called palpitations, which can be defined as a sensation of rapid and unpleasant heart beating.
In addition, most patients with atrial fibrillation have either a shortness of breath, or dizziness, or weakness, or difficulty with physical activities such as walking or climbing stairs. All of this makes them feel unwell, and they often go see their doctors with these kinds of symptoms.
These feelings can be very unpleasant or slightly unpleasant, they can be intermittent – occur just for a few days, or a few hours, or even a few minutes at a time, or be there continuously. And they can come at various seemingly random intervals.
Many patients are understandably very upset when they develop atrial fibrillation, because the symptoms can be quite unpleasant. It is very important to know that these symptoms, though they are unpleasant, are very, very rarely dangerous. They are not a medical emergency. They do not, in most cases, require an emergency visit to the hospital, and they do not, in most cases require emergency treatment.
Atrial fibrillation is not the same as a heart attack. A heart attack is a plumbing problem, which is an emergency. Atrial fibrillation is an important electrical problem, but usually not an emergency.
If you have atrial fibrillation and you don’t feel well, or you need more information, or you’re not completely satisfied with your treatment, speak to your family doctor. If needed, ask to be sent to a cardiologist who has expertise in atrial fibrillation, and get yourself as well informed as possible about this condition, so that you better understand your own body, and you can deal with the symptoms more effectively.
Presenter: Dr. Paul Dorian, Cardiologist, Toronto, ON
Local Practitioners: Cardiologist