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What is cardiology?

Cardiology is the specialty within medicine that looks at the heart and blood vessels. Your heart is made up of four chambers, which are responsible for pumping blood to your lungs and then the rest of your body. The study of the heart includes the heart muscle (the myocardium), the valves within the heart between the chambers, the blood vessels that supply blood to the heart muscle, and the electrical system of the heart, which is what controls the heart rate.

Specialist consultations and cardiac screening

General cardiology consultations including:

  • Cardiovascular risk assessment (risk of coronary blockages and heart attacks)
  • Diagnosis and treatment of high blood pressure
  • Assessment of abnormal heart rhythms and palpitations
  • Assessment of valvular heart disease (abnormal heart valves) and heart failure.

What to expect at the clinic

Your GP will refer you to us if they are concerned about your heart and want a specialist opinion. Alternatively you may self-refer if you have health concerns. After filling a simple health questionnaire (form), you will be reviewed by a specialist heart nurse and have the appropraite baseline tests (heart tracing +/- blood tests). You will then be seen by a Cardiologist (Specialist) for assessment. Further review by the NZ Team can then be determined. Further procedures (stress tests, ultrasound, angiogram-stent) will be discussed if it is felt you needed them.

Please bring along copies of previous reports from your doctor, any other specialist or hospital records if you have any, and also a list of your current medications (tablets).

Coronary artery disease (“blocked arteries”)

The commonest symptom of this problem is chest pain or tightness sometimes accompanied by shortness of breath. The pain may shoot down your arms and can make you feel sick, dizzy or sweaty.

Am I likely to have coronary artery disease?

Several risk factors increase the chance of having it. However even if you don’t have any of the following it could still happen to you. The risks include:

  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Heart problems in the family

Treatment of coronary artery disease

This consists of medications to protect the heart and its blood vessels. Some patients will require blood thinning and cholesterol treatment. Some patients will need angiograms to find the blockages and “unblock them” with stents.

Heart failure

Heart failure happens when the heart is not pumping properly. Many diseases can cause heart failure, including blocked arteries, high blood pressure, excess alcohol, and heart valve diseases (age related or rheumatic fever).

Main symptoms include tiredness and breathlessness on exertion.

Treatment of heart failure

Medications are key. These may be started and monitored by both your cardiologist and GP.

Cardiac arrhythmias: ("abnormal heart beats")

A complex electric system within the heart muscle controls the heart beats.

A number of conditions affect heart rate and/or rhythm making it too fast, too slow or too irregular. Different tablets will be used for different conditions. ECG (heart traces) and echocardiograms (ultrasound tests) help guide treatment.

Valve disease

Heart valves ensure blood flows the right way through the heart. Conditions can make these valves too narrow (not opening properly) or leaky (not closing properly). This may result in the heart pump not working properly (heart failure).