What is preventive cardiology?

Preventive cardiology is a specialty of cardiology that helps you manage heart disease risk factors before they get worse. Cardiology is a branch of internal medicine that focuses on your heart and blood vessels. So, preventive cardiology focuses on early prevention to keep your heart and blood vessels healthy. It’s a form of preventive medicine that can make a big impact on your health and well-being.

You may already see a cardiologist for heart checkups. You’d keep seeing your cardiologist if you join a preventive cardiology program. But you’d also receive care and advice from providers in many different specialties.

That’s because preventive cardiology takes a whole-body approach to caring for your heart. Your heart and blood vessels are team players. They work with your kidneys, endocrine system and many other “players” to keep your body going strong. But when one of the players gets injured, the whole team has to step in to help. So, a heart problem might put more work on your kidneys. Or a hormonal imbalance might lead to high blood pressure and more stress on your arteries.

Since your internal body parts work as a team, it makes sense for your healthcare providers to also work as a team. That’s the logic behind this innovative and collaborative form of care. Your preventive cardiology team includes providers from a range of specialties. They all receive additional training and certifications.

Care across specialties

Preventive cardiology programs are interdisciplinary. This means healthcare providers from different specialties work together with cardiologists. Your preventive care team could include:

  • Internal medicine doctors.
  • Endocrinologists.
  • Family physicians.
  • Pediatricians.
  • Obstetricians and gynecologists.
  • Dieticians.
  • Nurses and nurse practitioners.
  • Psychologists.
  • Exercise physiologists.

Preventive cardiology teams are made of experts who share their knowledge with each other and with you. They have expertise in areas like:

  • How your metabolism works.
  • The anatomy and function of your heart.
  • Functional stress testing.
  • Cardiac rehab.
  • Drugs and treatments for a range of conditions.
  • Natural therapies.
  • Lifestyle factors that impact your health.

Plus, your preventive cardiology team reaches out to other departments and programs to arrange care as you need it.

What do preventive cardiologists do?

The cardiologists on your preventive cardiology team support all aspects of your heart health. They collaborate with other specialists on your team. Preventive cardiology programs can help you with two types of heart disease prevention:

  • Primary prevention: Primary prevention helps you prevent heart or blood vessel problems before you have an event like a heart attack, stroke or surgery.
  • Secondary prevention: Secondary prevention helps you after you’ve had a heart event. The goal is to stop heart disease in its tracks and not let it get any worse.

Both types of prevention involve risk assessment, medical management and lifestyle management. Your preventive cardiology team provides care in each area.

Risk management

Prevention starts with learning your risks. Your team will personalize your care plan based on your medical history, health status and goals. Your first appointment will involve a complete risk assessment. This will show you and your team any risk factors you have right now. Your risk assessment includes:

The blood test goes above and beyond the usual one you may have at appointments with your primary care provider. Your team will run extra tests that check for nontraditional and newly discovered heart disease risk factors. These may include: specific proteins, lipoproteins and other substances linked with heart disease risk.

This risk assessment guides your treatment plan. Your team will review the results and talk with you about what they mean. You may need other tests like an EKG or echocardiogram. These imaging tests show more details about your heart function.

You’ll go back for follow-up appointments every three months. You may go more often or less often depending on your risks and needs.

Medical management

Knowing your risks is the first step. Next, you’ll work with your team to lower those risks. Many people have more than one heart disease risk factor. Sometimes treatment for one helps the others too. Your team will discuss treatment options and help you manage risks like:

Your team will discuss how your risks and medical conditions are affected by your:

  • Age.
  • Sex.
  • Biological family history.
  • Race/ethnicity.

Lifestyle management

Lifestyle management is an important part of preventive cardiology programs. In other words, what can you do in your daily life to lower your heart disease risks? You’ll talk with your team about factors like:

Talking about your lifestyle can be complex and might feel overwhelming. It’s OK to take things slow and tell your team when you’re feeling confused, upset or unsure of something. Most people can recall a time when someone judged them in some way about their health or made them feel “less than.”

Your preventive cardiology team is here to support you, not judge you. You can be open and honest. You can expect compassionate support and practical advice in return.

What can a preventive cardiology program help me do?

A preventive cardiology program can help you learn your risk factors for heart disease and how to manage them. Preventive cardiology can also help you manage existing heart disease so it doesn’t get worse.

Preventive cardiology is individualized. That means your plan is custom designed for you based on your background, needs and risks. You and a friend could both join the same program but have completely different plans. Cookie-cutter plans don’t work because everyone has a unique heart health profile. Your preventive cardiology team designs your plan with you, helps you set goals and helps you achieve those goals every step of the way.

Your preventive cardiology program could help you reach goals like:

  • Getting your blood pressure under control.
  • Lowering your “bad” cholesterol (LDL).
  • Lowering your blood sugar.
  • Adding 15 minutes of planned physical activity to each day.
  • Quitting smoking.
  • Making a list of go-to healthy snacks and meals for busy days.

Should I see a preventive cardiologist?

Preventive cardiology is designed to support people at all stages of life. Anyone can benefit from joining a preventive cardiology program. But it’s especially helpful if you:

  • Want to lower your risk of developing heart disease.
  • Have been diagnosed with heart disease risk factors.
  • Have medical conditions that raise your risk of developing heart disease. These include lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, among others.
  • Had a heart attack, stroke or surgery and want to prevent problems from happening again.

Even if you don’t have any risk factors right now, you could benefit from a preventive cardiology program. Your team will help you learn how to keep your risks low as you get older and help you manage any changes in your health status.

Like the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Luckily, your preventive cardiology team can help with prevention and treatment. The sooner you start preventing problems, the less treatment you may need down the road.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Heart disease is a complex journey no matter what stage you’re at. Every small change you make to lower your risks can make a big difference later on.

Preventive cardiology programs are designed to meet your individual needs. Talk with your healthcare provider to learn about program options. Your preventive cardiology team can make each change feel manageable. And together, you’ll celebrate every success along the way.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 06/07/2022.

References

  • Bays HE, Taub PR, Epstein E, et al. Ten things to know about ten cardiovascular disease risk factors. (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2666667721000040) Am J Prev Cardiol. 2021 Mar;5:100149. Accessed 6/8/2022.
  • Shapiro MD, Fazio S. Preventive cardiology as a dedicated clinical service: The past, the present, and the (magnificent) future. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7217102/) Am J Prev Cardiol. 2020 Mar;1:100011. Accessed 6/8/2022.
  • Wilhelm M, Abreu A, Adami PE, et al. EAPC core curriculum for preventive cardiology. (https://academic.oup.com/eurjpc/article/29/1/251/6207430) Eur J Prev Cardiol. 2022 Jan;29(1):251-274. Accessed 6/8/2022.

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