What is Cardiology?

Cardiology is the study of the heart and vascular system and the diseases that may affect them. There are three common areas of study in cardiology: coronary artery disease (CAD), valvular heart disease, and irregular heart rhythms, also known as arrhythmias.

For the lay person, the coronary artery system can be referred as the plumbing of the heart, focusing on the arteries and veins, how they work, or, more specifically in the field of cardiology, how they may not work. A patient experiencing chest pain may have arteriosclerosis – the build-up of cholesterol in the heart vessels; atherosclerosis – the hardening of the arteries; or peripheral vascular disease (PVD) – the build-up and/or hardening of vessels in the legs, arms, or any other part of the body. Many patients can be treated for a long time with medications, but if the CAD progresses, various interventions may become necessary. From minimally-invasive, diagnostic procedures, like cardiac catheterization, to therapeutic options such as balloon angioplasty and stent placement, to more invasive procedures, such as open-heart surgery, there are many treatments available for each suitable situation.

The field of invasive, or interventional, cardiology is the study and practice of these minimally-invasive procedures. Invasive cardiologists perform them in a special lab, and patients are often out of the hospital the same day. Dr. Fenster practices general and invasive cardiology, performing echocardiograms, stress tests, EKGs, lipid tests, and other diagnostic services in his office on Burns Road in Palm Beach Gardens. Dr. Fenster also performs catheterizations, angioplasties, and other interventions at Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center, across the street from his office.

Valvular heart disease concerns the heart’s four valves: the mitral, tricuspid, aortic, and pulmonic. Usually, valvular heart disease affects the first three. In cardiology, there are various tests used to diagnose and promote treatment of valvular heart disease. The echocardiogram can diagnose valves that leak or regurgitate, versus those which are stenotic or do not open properly. The cardiologist can help a patient decide whether to treat these issues with medication or surgery. Surgery usually requires a consultation with a cardiothoracic surgeon.

Common irregular heart rhythms, or arrhythmias, such as as atrial fibrillation, atrial flutter, super ventricular tachycardia, can typically be treated with medications supervised by a general cardiologist. Sometimes, specialists called electrophysiologists can be consulted to perform minimally invasive procedures at your local hospital.

How do you know when to visit your local cardiology practice?

The primary symptoms to pay attention to include unusual chest discomfort, pain or pressure that radiate to the arms, neck, jaw or back;  shortness of breath, fatigue, or dizziness, and passing out. If you have any of these symptoms, and you have not discussed them with your cardiologist, call 911 immediately.

The field of cardiology today is headed towards preventive cardiac care, less invasive therapies, and pharmacogenetics. Preventive cardiac care is the foundation of the practice of cardiology of the future, and the one area where patients can take the most control in their own care. More than “wellness,” or holistic medicine, preventive cardiac care focuses on ongoing healthy lifestyle choices, such as nutrition and exercise. With soaring healthcare costs, increasing medication intake, rising numbers in disease statistics, the answer lies within preventive medicine.

Of course, it’s harder than ever to make healthy choices: from processed foods to long work hours to huge portion sizes, unhealthy choices are surely easier to make than healthy ones. It is incumbent upon the modern cardiologist to work with patients to promote healthy choices. Toward this goal, Dr. Fenster has started the Palm Beach Heartstrong program, working with local country clubs to offer his patients competitive pricing for customized, heart-healthy personal training programs in their fitness centers. Dr. Fenster has also enlisted nutritionists to meet with eligible patients for a one-time assessment – free of charge. Thus far, Dr. Fenster’s patients have lost a total of over 800 pounds.

Patients at the Cardiac Institute of the Palm Beaches can enroll in a nutrition and fitness challenge as well. For every pound lost, or number of steps walked, Dr. Fenster and the Cardiac Institute of the Palm Beaches through Palm Beach Heartstrong will donate to the Max M. Fisher Boys & Girls Club in Riviera Beach, FL. By helping themselves, Dr. Fenster’s patients will also be helping their community.

From regular visits to observe heart rate, blood pressure, cholesterol, lipid and medication levels, to diagnostic testing in order to detect and treat heart disease, Jeffrey Fenster, MD, FACC, and the Cardiac Institute of the Palm Beaches, PA, offers the most advanced technology and treatment available.

Patients at Dr. Fenster’s office experience the latest in diagnostic testing, including nuclear stress tests, digital echocardiograms, digital electrocardiograms (EKGs), and more. But Dr. Fenster takes this dedication one step further by teaching his patients how to prevent heart disease from progressing.

Dr. Fenster spends time with his patients, regularly counseling them on living a heart-healthy life, including proper exercise and nutrition regimens. Additionally, he arranges a free consultation with his in-house nutritionist for those patients meeting specific criteria. Dr. Fenster has taken his commitment to the community as well, by working with local country clubs to assist their members in leading heart-healthy lives.

For more information on heart-related conditions, please visit the American Heart Association’s Watch, Learn and Live series.

For questions about your cardiac care, please call our office at (561) 296-5225.