When I was asked to write an article about cardiology, it became strikingly clear to me how little I knew of the subject. I knew that cardiology primarily focused on the heart, but not much more beyond that. This then dominoed into how little I knew of the heart itself. I knew that it pumps blood through the body, making it the engine that keeps our body going. I knew that a well-balanced diet with reduced levels of fat and cholesterol, and a steady regiment of light exercise keeps it fairly healthy which keeps one out of the emergency room – at least for heart related issues. But again, that was pretty much all. So it was time to research.
Now of course, I didn’t set out to become a cardiologist overnight. But having more knowledge and understanding of any subject is always better than having less; and so this article became a reason to arm myself with – as well as share – some information I feel anyone who is not a medical professional should know. Particularly if you’re in your mid 30’s (like myself) and considering beginning regular visits to a cardiologist to maintain a healthy heart. After all, how much can we really learn from the various medical dramas airing on television nowadays?
As I set out to learn, I decided to start with the heart; before moving onto the study of it and its disorders. The heart, for all intents and purposes, acts as a pump. It draws blood in and it pumps it back out, creating a continuous circulation of blood throughout the body. It’s divided into four main sections, or chambers. The two upper chambers are known as the left and right atrium, while the two lower chambers are the left and right ventricles. As the blood circulates, it flows into the atria (plural for atrium) and out through the ventricles.
Now some may wonder, just as I did, why there would be a need for four chambers when the heart seems to have two functions. That would be because the left and right sides of the heart have their own functions. The right side of the heart collects de-oxygenated blood and pumps it into the lungs, where carbon dioxide is exchanged for oxygen. From the lungs, the oxygenated blood flows into the left side of the heart where it is then pumped into the body. With every heartbeat, the right ventricle pumps the same amount of blood into the lungs as the left ventricle pumps into the body. The complete heartbeat, from its beginning to the beginning of the next beat, is known as the cardiac cycle.
Cardiology is the medical profession that specializes in disorders of the heart. Just as the heart is complicated and intricate, so is the specialization in the many things that can go wrong. As I continued to research I was amazed to find just how in depth cardiology actually is. There are more commonly known disorders; such as heart failure, which is failure of the heart to pump enough blood to meet the body’s demand. Or varicose veins, which are veins that become enlarged and twisted due to failed valves.
However, the list of disorders that affect the heart extends far beyond what you may have seen or heard on TV, or discussed amongst your family and friends. There are disorders that affect the four chambers or other parts of the heart such as the walls, arteries or valves. There are also disorders that affect the veins or how the blood circulates through them. There are even disorders that can cause the heart to stop pumping blood.
A cardiologist uses their knowledge and understanding of these disorders to help one maintain optimum heart health. Aside from being referred to one by your primary doctor, it is commonly known that it’s generally a good idea to consult one for various reasons. For example, if your family has a history of heart problems, you may want to consider consulting a cardiologist to make sure you are not predisposed to anything. However, I was surprised to learn that some non-cardiac disorders, such as diabetes or gum disease, can contribute to heart disease; so one may want to consult a cardiologist if you have one of those disorders as well.
The bottom line is that cardiology is, in my opinion, one of the most important fields of all medical professions.