Electricians and plumbers: How to find the right cardiovascular specialist for you

When you’re trying to fix a leak or figure out an electrical problem at home, you want to make sure you’re working with the right expert. That’s even more important when considering your heart.

According to Salem Health cardiology physician assistant David McWhorter, PA-C, Salem Health has three types of heart experts that patients may see depending on their specific needs.


Electricians for your heart

Your heart has a natural electrical system that makes it beat in a regular rhythm. If something goes wrong with these electrical signals, your heart might beat too fast, too slow or in an irregular way.

“Our electrophysiologists can run tests to understand what might be going wrong in the heart’s electrical system,” McWhorter says. “Once they find the cause, they can recommend a treatment.”

Electrical “repairs” to your heart might include ablation (a procedure that blocks bad electrical signals) or installing a device, such as a pacemaker, to keep your heart rhythms steady.


Keeping the pipes clear

For heart problems that aren’t electrical, many patients will see an interventional cardiologist. Just like plumbers fix pipes to keep water running smoothly, these doctors fix the blood vessels and other parts of your heart to keep blood flowing properly.

“Whether patients have ‘blocked pipes’ because of plaque buildup, or weak or bulging blood vessels that need reinforcement, interventional cardiologists can find and fix the problem,” McWhorter says.


Regular maintenance

“The third group of cardiologists are the general cardiologists,” McWhorter says. “They predominantly deal with managing the risk factors that lead to heart disease, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity and diabetes.”

McWhorter noted general cardiologists are also important in managing heart failure, which is a common diagnosis.

“General cardiologists, along with physician assistants and your primary care provider, are focused on preventing life-threatening heart problems,” McWhorter adds. “Your heart works hard throughout your entire life, so it makes sense to keep up with regular maintenance and repairs.”


Stay on top of your heart health

If you are at risk for heart problems or have suspicious symptoms, the first step in addressing these concerns is seeing a primary care provider. That will often lead to a workup that can include an electrocardiogram (or EKG), lab testing, an ultrasound or a wearable cardiac monitor. Based on those findings, you may be referred to the cardiology clinic.

Whether your heart needs an “electrician,” a “plumber” or your own cardiac “handyman” (or handy-ma’am) – Salem Health has you covered. Our team makes sure patients find the right care to live a healthier life.