Cardiology, also known as cardiovascular medicine, involves the study and treatment of maladies of the heart. One of the body’s most vital organs, the heart is comprised of the left and right atrium, the left and right ventricle, the tricuspid and mitral valves, and major arteries and veins, including the aorta and the superior and inferior vena cava. All of these parts work in coordination to propel blood throughout the body, providing oxygen and nutrients to the rest of the organs. The abnormal functioning of these parts often results in serious, prolonged illness or in death. Since almost 30% of all deaths result from cardiovascular disease, research in this area of medicine is of the utmost importance in the effort to preserve or extend human life.
Cardiovascular disease can include any ailment of the heart, arteries, or veins, such as cardiomyopathy, ischaemic heart disease, hypertension, and valvular heart disease. Some conditions of the heart are congenital, while others may be triggered by lifestyle choices. Susceptibility to cardiovascular disease typically increases with age, so, as is often the case, good decision making early in life can yield positive results later.
Cardiology has developed at an astonishing rate over the last several decades. Diagnostic tests such as ECG (electrocardiography), CMR (cardiovascular magnetic resonance) imaging, and IVUS (intravascular ultrasound) allow physicians to pinpoint and identify ailments with greater precision and accuracy than ever before. In terms of preventing cardiovascular disease, cardiologists can offer patients numerous options, ranging from the adoption of health-conscious diet and exercise regimens to drug therapies and surgical options.
As research increases our understanding of cardiovascular disease, it is important to educate patients about available treatments and preventive measures. Organizations such as the American Heart Association facilitate research while fostering educational endeavors.
Dr. David Faxon has worked extensively in researching and treating heart disease. He has contributed his knowledge to the American Heart Association for over 20 years.