I wish I had a nickel for every time someone asked me to recommend an integrative cardiologist. In fact, I was recently asked if I could recommend one in South Africa. So, that's prompted me to give you five tips for finding good heart doctors, no matter where you live.
What to Look For in a Cardiologist
- Look for a cardiologist who is F.A.C.C. Board Certified. This designation means the cardiologist is a Fellow of the American College of Cardiology. To earn this designation, the cardiologist must complete required training, successfully pass board certification and receive sponsorship from other F.A.C.C. certified cardiologists attesting to their professional competence in the field of cardiology. Similar designations are given by cardiology boards throughout the world.
- Make sure the cardiologist is truly integrative. This means he or she is just as knowledgeable about alternative therapies, dietary interventions and nutritional supplements as he or she is about conventional drugs and surgery. A key question to ask when interviewing a cardiologist is whether he or she advocates taking CoQ10, L-Carnitine and D-Ribose. If he/she doesn't recommend any of these nutrients, keep on looking.
- Find a cardiologist who treats the whole person. Unfortunately, the sad fact is that most cardiologists do treat the heart like a piece of machinery. But when it comes to heart disease, emotions are just as important as what's occurring physically. So, you want to find a cardiologist who takes a holistic approach and acknowledges that your emotional state can enhance your recovery from heart disease. I was fortunate enough, years ago, to come across the teachings of Dr. Francis Peabody, who said that one of the essential qualities of a clinician is taking an interest in humanity. He wrote in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association back in 1927, "The secret of care of the patient is caring for the patient." That's a philosophy I've always followed in my practice.
- Ensure that you find a cardiologist who is compassionate and interested in you. During your first office visit, notice if he/she looks directly at you and touches you in a caring way. Many doctors these days don't. Does he/she smile and appear to be connecting with you and your struggle? Does he/she inspire you to take care of yourself?
- Determine if the cardiologist is flexible and willing to learn. Unfortunately, many doctors treat their patients with blinders on, unwilling to explore new treatments. I've always regarded patients who present me with new ideas as opportunities for me to learn and expand my practice. I never dismiss a new treatment out of hand. Instead, I use it as a chance to seek out new information and grow my repertoire of alternative treatments.
Additional Considerations To Find a Cardiologist
It's also important to make sure every office visit with your cardiologist is worth your time and money. Before you go, prepare a list of things you want to talk about with the doctor. Take a family member or friend who will listen with you; they may catch some advice or counsel that you miss. Also take notes during the visit that you can refer to later, and don't be afraid to follow up with your doctor if you have additional questions.
Finally, when you're visiting a cardiologist you should never feel rushed or dissatisfied with the answers you get, or with other aspects of your visit. If you do, start your search over and continue to look for a practitioner who you feel is willing and able to be your partner. You and your health deserve it.