Heart disease and stroke are some of the leading causes of death among Canadians. As more and more of us lead sedentary lifestyles or develop risk factors for heart disease, it’s important to stay educated on how you can keep your heart health optimal through mid-life and beyond.
What is a Cardiologist?
In Canada, a doctor becomes licensed as a cardiologist only after they’ve completed the following requirements:
- Five to nine years of medical school and residency
- Certification from the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada and licensure with the Medical Council of Canada
- An additional four-year certification from the Royal College in internal medicine
- Three years of additional cardiology training in a specialized program
Due to both the grueling licensing requirement and the demand for cardiologists in Canada, only patients who have obtained a referral from a practicing general physician may see a cardiologist. Luckily, it’s not difficult to get a referral to see a cardiologist, especially with a secure online doctor video appointment platform like walkinvirtualclinics.com.
Emergency Symptoms of Heart Disease
Heart disease has many different forms, and as a result, there are many different signs and symptoms to watch for. Most Canadians are familiar with the emergency symptoms to watch for:
- Severe pain or pressure in the chest, especially the left side, radiating into the arm, shoulder, neck, or jaw
- Chest pain during exercise or exertion that doesn’t stop after exertion ends
- Chest pain with any one or more of the following symptoms:
- Clammy skin or excess sweating, pale appearance
- Difficulty catching breath
- Nausea, vomiting, or other gastrointestinal complaints. It maybe more common in women
- Intense fatigue or weakness
- Irregular heartbeat
- Intense pressure in the throat or difficulty speaking or swallowing
- Palpitations (skipped beats in the heartbeat)
- The feeling of weakness or dizziness
If you suspect you may be experiencing a cardiovascular emergency, do NOT wait to see your general practitioner: instead, visit the nearest emergency department.
When To Ask for a Referral to a Cardiologist
Anyone who’s concerned about their cardiovascular health has good reason to ask for a referral to see a cardiologist, but it’s essential for Canadians entering middle-age, when chronic health conditions like heart disease develop and risk factors for stroke increase.
Similarly, any more than one or two reasons on this list might encourage you to get a referral to a cardiologist to prevent, assess, diagnose or treat cardiovascular problems:
- Recommendation from a family doctor: Canadians trust their family doctors to provide them with health advice. If your general physician has suggested it’s time to consult a cardiologist online, ask for a referral.
- Cholesterol: While dietary cholesterol’s role in heart disease is not fully known, high serum levels of cholesterol in a blood test are a good indicator that you may be at risk for developing heart disease.
- Hypertension (high blood pressure): hypertension’s role in causing and exacerbating heart disease has been known for decades. If your blood pressure regularly scores highly, it’s time to see a cardiologist.
- Tobacco: Any regular use of tobacco-containing products increases your risk for heart disease drastically. If you were a smoker or still are, ask your doctor for a referral to a cardiologist to be safe.
- Strenuous exercise: More heart attacks are caused when the body’s heart rate elevates quickly, such as during difficult or unfamiliar exercise, or during household chores only done once a season, like snow shoveling.
- Gum disease: Having gum disease increases inflammation throughout the body and is a known contributor to heart disease.
- Pregnancy complications: People who have experienced problems during pregnancy, especially pre-eclampsia, should get a referral to a cardiologist and a regular check-up with their doctor about potential heart disease.
- Family History: Family medical history is perhaps the most crucial reason to ask for a referral for a cardiologist, and for good reason. If your parents or grandparents had heart disease, it’s wise to be on the watch.
Do I need a referral?
If you identify with the information on this page, you could benefit from a referral to see a cardiologist. The best practice is obtaining a referral is through a general practitioner, who can keep tabs on your medical file and help you with the cardiologist’s recommendations.
This also has the added benefit of reducing the strain on the healthcare system: if your blood panel comes back without any signs of heart disease, you’ve saved yourself and the specialist a whole afternoon!
Schedule a video appointment with WalkInVirtualClinic and begin the first steps that will result in you getting the referral you need to see a cardiologist and taking your heart health back into your own hands.