Cardiovascular disease is one of the leading causes of death and disability worldwide, accounting for 17 million deaths each year. The South African Heart & Stroke Foundation estimates that approximately 200 people die from heart disease or strokes in our country every day. If you suffer from a heart condition or have experienced a cardiac incident, like a heart attack, you should consult a cardiologist in order to receive the best possible care. Bloom explains more about this specialist focus.
What is a cardiologist and what do they do?
Cardiologists are specialist doctors who are trained to deal with conditions relating to cardiovascular disease, that is the heart and blood vessels. They will diagnose and manage a heart condition, which may entail referring you to additional specialists to alleviate symptoms, halt disease progression or advise on interventional procedures.
Types of Cardiologists
Cardiology has many subspecialties where a cardiologist will focus on a particular type of heart problem. Some of these include:
- Clinical cardiologists
Clinical cardiologists diagnose and manage conditions relating to the heart, like angina. They will also coordinate your care with other heart specialists.
- Interventional cardiologists
An interventional cardiologist performs angiograms, which is the procedure used to check for narrowed or clogged arteries.
- Heart failure specialists
This type of heart specialist focuses on managing or delaying the symptoms and/or progression of heart failure.
This type of heart specialist focuses on the diagnosis, treatment and management of arrhythmias.
- Congenital heart specialists
A congenital heart specialist will deal with a heart defect or condition that you were born with and which needs to be managed.
- Cardiac surgeons
Cardiac surgeons repair heart defects and perform heart transplants. They also specialise in surgery relating to the heart, like a coronary bypass.
Types of heart procedures and treatments performed by a cardiologist
Some of the most common procedures and treatments undertaken for heart conditions include the following:
This procedure is done when a person suffers from angina and is undertaken to increase blood flow through the arteries. A special type of tubing with an attached balloon is threaded up to the affected coronary arteries. The balloon is then inflated to widen the blocked areas. By widening the arteries, the procedure also reduces the risk of stroke. Angioplasty can also be done using a laser, which breaks down the plaque build-up in the arteries.
This is a surgical procedure used to treat blocked arteries and improve the flow of blood to the heart. A bypass helps reduce the risk of a heart attack and relieves the symptoms of angina. The procedure involves taking arteries or veins from other regions of your body, known as grafts, and using these to route blood around the clogged artery.
This is the recommended treatment for arrhythmia. A catheter, with an electrode, is guided through the veins to a specific area of the heart where mild radio frequencies are transmitted to selected heart muscle cells.
Minimally invasive heart surgery
This procedure is an alternative to standard bypass surgery and is used to improve the flow of blood supply and oxygen to the heart. This has the effect of relieving angina symptoms and reduces the risk of a heart attack. In this procedure, veins or arteries are taken from your legs and attached to your heart in order to bypass the clogged arteries.
Heart valve surgery (or heart valve replacement surgery)
This procedure helps restore the proper functioning of the heart valves by replacing the diseased valve with a healthy one.
This is the procedure used to restore heart health by removing a diseased heart and replacing it with a healthy human donor heart.
When should you see a cardiologist?
If you have a history of heart disease in your family, suffer from diabetes or experience any of the persistent symptoms typical of a heart condition, your GP may refer you to a cardiologist. Some of these could include:
- Frequent chest pains
- Shortness of breath
- Heart arrhythmia
- High blood pressure
- Feeling dizzy or faint
What to expect when visiting a cardiologist
When you visit the cardiologist they will review your medical history and will carry out a physical examination, like checking your blood pressure and weight. They will probably prescribe some tests in order to make a diagnosis. These tests could include an ECG (electrocardiogram), which is used to record electrical activity of the heart, an exercise test used to gauge the changes in your heart rhythm or an echocardiogram, which is an ultrasound displaying the structure of the heart and its surrounding areas.
Questions to ask when visiting the cardiologist
Don’t be afraid to ask questions when you visit the specialist. It’s important that you understand your condition so you can get the best possible care and treatment. If you have specific concerns then use this opportunity to raise these topics with your specialist. Some questions we recommend asking are:
- What is my risk for having a heart attack or stroke?
- What type of medication do I need to take?
- What type of diet do I need to follow?
- What type of activities can I do (or not do?)
- Do I need to have surgery and, if so, what type of surgery?
- What should I do if I think I’m having a heart attack or a stroke?
Health4Me cover for cardiologists
Health4Me Gold members can visit a cardiologist as part of the specialist benefit cover. In order to visit a specialist a Health4Me member will need to obtain a referral from a doctor on the Momentum Health4Me Network and obtain pre-authorisation. Cardiologist consultations are limited to two visits at a maximum of R1,000 per visit each year. If there are any shortfalls you will need to pay the balance out of pocket.
What happens if I need to have heart surgery?
If the cardiologist recommends a surgical procedure you will need to provide the hospital with a guarantee of payment letter before being permitted admission. Your Health4Me insurance in-hospital and medical events benefits will cover you for a hospital cash benefit of between R500-R1000 per member per day (provided you are in hospital for no longer than two days), and a maximum payout of R20,000 per member each year. A three-month waiting period does apply for this benefit.
Will health insurance cover me if I have a heart attack or a stroke?
Yes. Health4Me Bronze, Silver and Gold plan members will be covered under the accident and emergency benefit cover. This includes transportation, stabilisation and treatment cost paid in the case of emergency medical treatment. The emergency cover for a heart attack or stroke is between R250,000-R500,000 per member, dependent on your particular plan.
Your health insurance benefit will cover the cost up to the limit of casualty treatment and up to the limit benefit option for the in-hospital treatment.
Will health insurance cover me if I have a heart attack or a stroke?
You can rely on Health4Me for cover should you ever need to visit a specialist, like a cardiologist.
Bloom offers flexible and affordable health insurance in South Africa that suits your individual needs and budget. Contact our expert consultants to discuss how you can get health insurance cover today.
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You understand and acknowledge that all users of the Bloom website are responsible for their own medical care, treatment, and oversight. All content provided on the website, is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. Neither is it intended to be a substitute for an independent professional medical opinion, judgement, diagnosis or treatment.