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Overview of cardiology

Cardiology is the branch of medicine that covers conditions related to the heart muscle as well as the circulatory system, which pumps blood throughout the body.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease causes 1 in 4 deaths in the United States. Heart disease can also substantially reduce quality of life.

Cardiologists treat a variety of disorders related to the heart and circulatory system, such as heart defects, coronary artery disease, and heart failure.

At Dignity Health, our hospitals are staffed by teams of specialists in the prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation of heart disease. Our cardiology experts never miss a beat when it comes to your heart health. They'll be there for you, no matter what you're facing.

Common conditions

Some common cardiac conditions are:

  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • High cholesterol
  • Pericarditis (inflammation around the heart)
  • Heart attack
  • Heart failure
  • Coronary artery disease (the most common form of heart disease)
  • Arrhythmia (abnormal or irregular heartbeat)
  • Tachycardia
  • Atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries)
  • Congenital disabilities
  • Cardiomyopathy (weakened or enlarged heart muscle)
  • Heart infection
  • Heart valve disease

Common tests

At Dignity Health, our providers may perform the following tests to help diagnose your heart condition:

  • Electrocardiogram ("EKG") and other electrical tests to measure the electrical activity in the heart
  • Blood tests to check levels of cholesterol and other fats, blood sugar, and markers of heart attack
  • Chest x-rays to create a still picture of your heart
  • Stress testing to measure any changes in heart rhythm between periods of rest and exercise. Stress tests also measure how effectively the heart is working during exercise.
  • Echocardiogram to create an ultrasound-based image of the heart chambers, measure output of the heart, or check how effectively the heart is pumping blood. It can also make conditions like pericarditis, or swelling around the heart, visible, and help diagnose congenital disabilities such as valve defects.

Treatments for heart disease depend on your overall health and specific condition. Your personalized treatment plan may include medications, lifestyle changes, and medical procedures or surgery.

If you are diagnosed with heart disease, your personalized treatment plan at Dignity Health may include:

  • Catheter ablation, where radio waves, heat, or freezing is used to destroy abnormal tissue in the heart that could lead to arrhythmia.  
  • Permanent pacemaker, where a device is inserted into the heart to ensure it keeps beating in a regular rhythm.
  • Cardiac catheterization, where a thin tube is inserted through a blood vessel into the heart to find abnormalities in arteries.  
  • Coronary angioplasty, where a catheter is inserted into a blood vessel, which is then expanded using a balloon to increase blood flow. Angioplasties can also be performed on blocked or constricted blood vessels in the arms, legs, or other parts of the body.
  • Coronary artery bypass, a procedure also known as bypass surgery, in which a blocked or constricted artery is circumvented ("bypassed") by inserting a healthy blood vessel from the leg or another part of the body. 
  • Heart transplant, where a heart that cannot be repaired is replaced with a donated heart.
  • Valve repair or replacement, where valves may be loosened or tightened to optimize blood flow through the heart, or a synthetic or donated valve is inserted in place of a damaged or malfunctioning valve.

The cardiologists at Dignity Health are here to provide whole-person care and treatment for heart disease. Find a Doctor near you.

The information contained in this article is meant for educational purposes only and should not replace advice from your healthcare provider.

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