Cardiology specialists: When you need extra expertise

Primary care providers can help people manage their blood pressure and cholesterol. But those with additional risks for heart disease should consider consulting a cardiologist.

Seeing a cardiologist is standard practice after you've experienced a heart attack or other serious heart problem. But in certain situations, you may want to consult a physician who specializes in managing heart disease even if you haven't had a heart-related scare.

"We encourage people with a family history of premature heart disease or who have many risk factors for heart disease to consider an evaluation by a cardiologist," explains cardiologist Dr. Michelle O'Donoghue, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. A premature heart attack is one that occurs before age 55 in a man or before age 65 in a woman. If you have a parent or sibling who falls into that category, make sure your primary care provider knows, as your odds of heart disease are higher than average.

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